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Paula K. Montgomery, former chief of school library media services for the state Department of Education, dies

Paula Montgomery "was a fierce proponent of equality in access to information," her sister said.
Paula Montgomery "was a fierce proponent of equality in access to information," her sister said. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Paula K. Montgomery, former chief of school library media services for the Maryland Department of Education, who was also an assistant professor at McDaniel College, died March 3 from undetermined causes at her home in Federal Hill. She was 74.

Paula Kay Montgomery, daughter of Floyd Woodrow Montgomery, a welder, and his wife, Adelyn Ann Peterson Montgomery, an educator and artist, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in Homestead, Florida, where she graduated in 1964 from South Dade Senior High School.

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She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1967 in English and library science from the Florida State University, from which she also obtained a master’s degree in 1968 in library science. She earned a Ph.D. in reading in 1989 from the University of Maryland, College Park.

From 1969 to 1972, Dr. Montgomery was a school library media specialist for Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, responsible for maintaining and selecting materials for collections, motivating student reading and aiding teachers in the selection of reading material, planning and instruction.

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In 1973, she became a teacher specialist for evaluation and selection in the department of media and technology for Montgomery County schools, advising media specialists on building collections, assessing collections, developing a database for a computer ordering system, preparing multiethnic seminars and materials and special bibliographies and exhibits.

Dr. Montgomery joined the state Department of Education in 1979 as chief of school library media services in the Division of Library Development Services. Some of her responsibilities included formulating long-range plans for the development of school library media programs, supervising the operation of a professional library for 72,000 state educators, evaluating school library media programs and administering federal funds.

She retired in 1988.

“Paula was a fierce proponent of equality in access to information, pushing the importance of library and internet accessibility for all,” Debra Goodrich, a sister, of Fort Pierce, Florida, wrote in a biographical profile.

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“She was instrumental in the development policies, programs and laws at all government and educational levels. This included consulting with the U.S. Department of Education throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and presentations to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Education,” Ms. Goodrich wrote.

In 1990, Dr. Montgomery was a delegate to the Maryland Governor’s Conference on Libraries, at a time when Baltimore was spending $1.75 per pupil each year on school libraries. “That figure was $10.45 per pupil in Anne Arundel County; in Montgomery County it was $32.69,” reported The Baltimore Sun at the time.

“Maryland has passed school library laws that have been copied in other states, but we want the state to specifically fund school library programs, not just say it would be nice to have them,” Dr. Montgomery told the newspaper. “if you don’t have the financial backing, the laws aren’t any good.”

She added: “You can’t buy a book for $2 per student. And if you don’t get kids to read in grade school, it gets harder and harder, and then you have adults who can’t read.”

Dr. Montgomery lectured and wrote widely. She was the author of “Approaches to Literature Through Subject,” part of the Oryx Reading Motivation Series, “Media Skills for Middle Schools: Strategies for Library Media Specialists and Teachers,” “The Bookmark Book (Cut ‘n Clip),” and “Approaches to Literature through Literary Form.”

From 1984 to 2005, she was the publisher and editor of School Media Activities Monthly and Crinkles, a magazine full of activities for children to help them explore topics while developing research and library-use skills. She sold both publications in 2005.

During the 1980s, she was an instructor at Towson University, George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Shippensburg State College in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

She worked part-time during the 1990s at McDaniel College in Westminster, where she was supervisor of school librarianship interns. Courses she taught included Introduction to Library Services for Children, Media for Young Adults, Selection and Utilization of Media, Information Sources: Retrieval, Dissemination, and Utilization, and Organization of Instructional Media.

Interest in other peoples and cultures led Dr. Montgomery to travel to Mexico, the Amazon and Machu Picchu, England, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and to nearly all 50 states.

The longtime Henrietta Street resident enjoyed researching her family genealogy, attending Scottish clan gatherings, quilting and spending time with her two pets, Miss Pris and Prudence.

She was an active member of Christ Lutheran Church, where she was particularly interested in evangelism.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at her church, 701 S. Charles St., Federal Hill. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, masks and social distancing will be observed.

In addition to Debra Goodrich, Dr. Montgomery is survived by two other sisters, Marta Villacorta of Plantation, Florida, and Janet Montgomery of Port Charlotte, Florida; four nieces and two nephews.

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