Jean Armour Polly Photo


Jean Armour Polly

Jean Armour Polly was one of the first U.S. librarians to offer computer and Internet access to the public, transforming public library service and redefining the role of the librarian as a digital educator and Internet advocate.

In 1981, Polly began offering computer access to the public at the Liverpool Public Library, in upstate New York. At the time, it was one of only two public libraries in the U.S. to do so.

By 1992, recognizing the potential impact of free public Internet access, Polly connected her computer lab to the nascent network, establishing one of the earliest instances of public access Internet and launching a movement to include Internet as a core library service.  

She then co-founded PUBLIB, the first online listserv for public librarians worldwide to discuss Internet policy, pitfalls, use and opportunities associated with public libraries. She challenged librarians to shift their views of the Internet from threat to resource, and encouraged them to become active in shaping its evolution and reach.   

She found many ways to share her knowledge with the broader public as well. In 1992, she wrote and published one of the first free, nontechnical public guides to the Internet, Surfing the Internet (Polly is often credited with coining the phrase), becoming a respected resource on Internet use. 

By 1996, her willingness to share her knowledge of Internet navigation had earned her the nickname “Net-mom®,” and she subsequently wrote the first encyclopedic directory of Internet resources for kids, Net-mom’s Internet Kids & Family Yellow Pages, championing kids’ web access and Internet safety. Logging six editions, including those for China and the U.K., the book was an invaluable resource to parents and educators, and sold over 250,000 copies worldwide.

Watch an interview on her contribution