Yale Public Library has a new mission statement that guides how they serve their community: Yale Public Library – Providing opportunities for all to connect, learn, succeed and create. The library’s director Nancy Griffin says the library strives to serve their patrons in a variety of ways in the mission statement’s four areas – connect, learn, succeed and create. When they celebrated their centennial last year, they even put those four words on the library’s doorframe.
Yale, Oklahoma, is located in Payne County, 20 minutes east of Stillwater. Yale has a population of 1,227. The community is known as the home of world-famous athlete Jim Thorpe.
Griffin has served as the library’s director since October 2013. In a small, rural community like Yale, Griffin said the local library is central to the community’s progress.
“I’ve discovered that in a town of less that 1,300, the library has become the hub the community,” said Griffin. “We receive calls for everything from phone number look-ups to where to find a notary. We have even become a drop-off location for community events like the Winter Wonderland.”
The library has been especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. The library was closed for 10 weeks, but reopened after Memorial Day. Griffin said the library is following CDC guidelines for social distancing and quarantining books.
“While we can’t provide our regular classes and children’s programming, we can provide computers and Wi-Fi,” said Griffin. “The technology has made a difference for our community.”
During the pandemic, computers and internet access have been important for patrons searching for jobs, applying for various benefits and completing homework for remote learning. Griffin said they have restricted computer use to these types of activities to serve as many patrons as possible.
The library provides Wi-Fi in their parking lot and curbside pick-up for books and other resources. Griffin said a popular service has been a phone charging station. A lot of kids visit the library to charge their phones.
Over the last year, the library has gained a significant number of new patrons. Griffin says new patrons are surprised on their first visit to the library. “They say ‘Wow! You have computers and Wi-FI!’” said Griffin.
For these patrons, Griffin sees the library as a door to opportunities. “When someone enters the library’s door, they are on equal footing,” she said. “Education level, age and income don’t matter.”
Griffin said internet connectivity is also key to creating those opportunities. Without connectivity, people will be left behind.
Yale Public Library has been a OneNet customer since 1999. The library started with a 56K circuit and has upgraded three times. In 2017, Griffin followed the Oklahoma Department of Libraries’ recommendation to upgrade to a 100Mbps circuit. This circuit provides the connectivity the library requires for computer use and Wi-Fi services.
“What I like about OneNet is it’s seamless. I don’t have to think about it,” said Griffin. “When we lose power, we receive a note from OneNet. When I call about my account, they help immediately.”
Over the years, Griffin has encountered a number of OneNet staff. She is always impressed, especially with OneNet’s executive director Vonley Royal. She said the people she has met have sold her on OneNet.
“No one at OneNet ever makes me feel like I should know everything about IT,” said Griffin. “I feel like we are a team. OneNet’s staff is courteous and a pleasure to work with. I wish everyone had customer service like this. OneNet sets a high bar.”
Griffin said high-speed internet allows the library’s patrons to be a part of the global community and keep up with a changing world. There are only a few stores in Yale, and patrons can order online. Many lower income patrons use the computers to apply for SoonerCare or food stamps and complete their taxes.
“Connectivity is vital and without it, there is a disconnect,” said Griffin. “People cannot afford it or don’t have access to it where they live.”
Royal believes libraries are necessity in Oklahoma’s rural communities. OneNet serves more than 70 libraries across the state.
“Our rural libraries in Oklahoma meet needs that no other community organization can provide,” said Royal. “We work hand-in-hand with libraries to bring services to citizens right where they live. Without our libraries, people would lose access to the online resources they need for their daily lives.”
Griffin said the library’s association with OneNet has been crucial for the community.
“OneNet is always reliable and provides us with fast internet,” said Griffin. “Our community has expectation that they can come to our library and be connected, and they always are.”