Judy Taggart: Advocating for Delaware’s Libraries
When Judy Taggart was 10 years old, she volunteered to collect coats for the needy and to pass out tags at voting polls with the words “I voted.” More than six decades later, Taggart is still volunteering.
“I get so much out of it,” says the 77-year-old Newark resident. “It enriches your life through meeting so many interesting individuals and knowing you are assisting individuals and the community.”
Taggart, who retired in 2008 as director of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council, received the 2013 Woman of the Year Award from the University of Delaware Women’s Club, the 2018 Jefferson Award for community services, and the 2019 Distinguished Service Citation Award from the Delaware Library Association.
Taggart volunteers at Newark Meals on Wheels, New Castle County League of Women Voters and the Newark Senior Center. But most of her volunteer hours are devoted to libraries. For the past 16 years, she has been an advocate of libraries at the local, county and state levels. She promotes libraries at community events, she advises county and state representatives on library needs, and requests library funding for the resources, programs and services library users get for free.
Taggart is president of the Friends of the Newark Free Library Board, a Friends of Delaware Libraries board member and was appointed to the New Castle County Library Advisory Board and the State Council on Libraries in 2016.
“Judy is a very motivated person with excellent communication skills and personal knowledge that makes her a powerful advocate for libraries,” says Kay Bowes, president of Friends of Delaware Libraries. “She understands the importance of libraries in our communities. We are extremely grateful for her service and work.”
Taggart is one of about 2,500 volunteers who are members of library groups.
“Our goal is to improve the lives of the people of Delaware,” she says. “Elected officials hear about roads and potholes, but not about libraries.”
Taggart, who has a masters of science in Human Resource Management, was a teacher and later a school principal in Missouri in the 1960s. She says her love of libraries was instilled by her mother, who loved to read. “When she became blind in her 70s, she depended heavily on books on tape, as they were called then,” says Taggart.
About 10 years ago, Friends of Newark Free Library contributed $10,000 to make e-books available in public libraries statewide. And each year the Friends group raises approximately $15,000 through fundraisers, donations and memorial gifts to assist Newark Free Library.
Funds cover such things as kids’ computers, video equipment, high quality cultural and music programs, and supplies for the Summer Reading Program.
Cristian Tlatenchi, 10, has participated in the Summer Reading program since he was 5. The Newark resident says he likes the program because libraries give books to kids as gifts.
“I get excited when I get to choose my own book,” he says.
Taggart says people recognize libraries are evolving to give people of all ages and economic status opportunities to improve their lives. In addition to the traditional services, libraries now offer job and small business assistance, career and test prep online courses and computer classes, as well as coding for kids, social worker assistance and volunteer fairs for teens.
For more information about public libraries in New Castle County and throughout the state, visit nccde.org/libraries and lib.de.us, or go to Facebook at facebook.com/ncclibraries.