By David Mazzenga
HONESDALE—Scores gathered at 6th and River Thursday night to honor the legacy of longtime librarian, Molly Rodgers, whose 40 years of experience in both a paid and volunteer capacity culminated in the unification of seven separate libraries into the Wayne Library Alliance (WLA) and a staunch advocacy which inspires her former coworkers to uphold her bibliophilic bulwark for years to come.
To this end, the WLA, now under the direction of System Administrator Tracy Schwarz, established the Molly Rodgers Library Legacy Group, which will allow individuals to “contribute to the longterm financial success” of the library by naming the group as a beneficiary of a portion of their estate.
“As always, she wanted her retirement to be something make a difference in the community,” Schwarz said of Rodgers.
Schwarz noted joining the legacy group will help ensure the library's longevity and “let us thank you for it now, while you're still here to enjoy it.”
In addition to honoring Rodgers' commitment with the legacy group, Thursday's jovial celebrations allowed those in attendance to express their fondness for her on a “We Geek Molly” marker board.
Moreover, Children's Librarian, Betty Lawson devised a game of “Molly Bingo” to pesent charming anecdotes from Rodgers' life.
“Any success that the library's had, any success that I've had...is because of this incredible woman in my life,” said Lawson. “She teaches us to be strong, to persevere and to be proud that we're smart, strong women. She built this wonderful, wonderful place where we are.”
Further accolades and heartfelt congratulations came from Rodgers' myriad friends and colleagues over the years, including Pennsylvania Library Association Executive Director Christine Buker, Lackawanna Library System Administrator Mary Garm, Wayne County Public Library board members Louis LaBar and Mikki Uzupes, and write-in remarks from Allegheny County Library Association Executive Director Marilyn Jenkins.
Kicking off the kind words, Jenkins wrote “The life of a system administrator is an ever shifting landscape requiring and abundance of patience, a steady optimism balance by a pragmatic realism, and a good dose of humor. I have never seen anyone navigate that challenging terrain with as much grace as Molly.”
Noting that a library isn't, “...just a building, it's the people inside the building,” Buker said, “Molly is a true pioneer, champion and warrior for our libraries…
“Molly has often referred to the library in the terms 'timeless' and 'purposeful,' and when we look at how libraries have evolved, they are in fact timeless and purposeful.”
Adding to the idea of a library as more than a structure, LaBar stated, “When Molly became the director of the Wayne County Public Library, she did not see a book depository, a brick and mortar building, or hushed rooms overseen by an uptight librarian. She saw a living, breathing organization.”
He further noted this passion spurred her to bring together “ seven fiercely independent libraries,” ultimately creating “a rural library system recognized as one of the best … rural systems in the state.”
Adding to this sentiment, Garm stated, “On more than one occasion, Molly has convinced the state of Pennsylvania that Wayne County is the best place to fund pilot projects that would benefit libraries across the commonwealth.”
Calling attention to Rodgers' day-to-day interactions, Uzupes estimated the now retired librarian must have reached hundreds of thousands of lives between library patrons, employees, volunteers and all the other interpersonal relationships those individuals have had.
“Molly, your positive impact on the world has been vast – immeasurable, even – and I for one stand in awe of what your will, your energy and your vision have built in these seven libraries in this county,” said Uzupes.
In addition to the kind words of colleagues, Rodgers' efforts were extolled by state and local officials.
Representing Senator Lisa Baker, Andrew Seder presented Rodgers with a certificate of appreciation, as well as a $100 check to be donated through the Wayne County Community Foundation into the WLA Technology fund.
“I don't know if there's another county of this size … that can support seven libraries and keep them all open and not only open, but growing with the number of items checked out, the number of programs offered and everything else that they have here,” said Seder, noting Rodgers is the reason Wayne County can do so.
Representative Mike Peifer also commended Rodgers, presenting her with a joint House citation from he and Representative Jon Fritz who was unable to make it that evening.
Included with the citation was also a donation check to the WLA Technology fund.
Peifer noted libraries are needed because reading is critical “If you can't read the question, you can't analyze the question and you can't respond. What a noble cause, what a great group of people.”
Presenting Rodgers with the citation, Peifer added it “[congratulates] you and your time and your efforts and what you've done for this wonderful endeavor.”
Wayne County's Board of Commissioners, Brian Smith, Joseph Adams and Wendell Kay, were also in attendance to honor Rodgers with a certificate of recognition.
Referencing the renovated Katz building in which the event took place, Adams stated, “The retrofitting of this building reminds me of all the retrofitting it took to make the library become more viable and an integral part of our community.
“And the single driving force to do that is Molly Rodgers. We're so thrilled that you started there and continued to grow everything for the libraries around the county.”
Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith noted that after 13 years of knowing Rodgers “Molly is somebody that I have only grown more admiration and more respect for the longer I have known her and the more interactions we've had.”
Quoting Mark Twain's adage “It is always much easier to stay out of something than to get out of it,” Commissioner Kay expressed a great degree of gratitude for Rodgers' continued efforts in the community even a year after her retirement.
He noted all were assembled Thursday, “...with the full knowledge that you are still working very hard for Wayne County and for this entire library community. So thank you for your dedication.”
Noting her own gratitude for the adoration assembled Thursday evening, Rodgers stated “I'm speechless. I am touched. I am honored. I am embarrassed. I am a little bit of everything right now.”
Recounting her vast experience in the library community since first volunteering at the Hawley Library in 1978 and helming the Wayne County Public Library from 1999 until 2018, Rodgers explained “everything that anybody talked about tonight happened because I had an amazing community of people.”
This included family, friends, coworkers and donors and funders who helped support the library development.
Calling attention to the librarians at each of the seven libraries within the alliance whose dedication matches her own, Rogers stated, “I could not have done a fraction of what I did without them.”
Reiterating the myriad stories Uzupes told of the lives touched by Rogers and the library system, the retired librarian stated, “That's why we do what we do.”