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Janesville Library Prepared For Inquiring Reporters


For the residents of Janesville, Wisconsin, Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate was a story of a local man becoming the biggest news in the country. But for the librarians of Janesville, it meant something else entirely, as NPR's Don Gonyea found out last week.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: When I'm on the road working on a story, and I find myself in a town I'm not very familiar with, my first stop is often the local public library. I walk in. I say that I don't live here, that I'm a reporter. I'm looking for local history. It all takes a bit of explanation. But when I broke into that routine in Janesville last week, I was greeted with a friendly look that said, Here comes another one.


SUE BRADEN: Well, you're not the first who's been here recently. But...

GONYEA: That's Sue Braden who's worked as a reference librarian for 20 years, the past 13 here at the Hedberg Public Library on Main Street in Janesville. At one point last week she says they had half a dozen out of town journalists at once. Usually when I drop in on a library I'm not working a story that every news organization is also chasing. But what struck me in Janesville was how prepared the library was for the moment.

BRADEN: Well, here we have Paul Ryan's high school yearbooks - 1986, 1987 and 1988.

GONYEA: Braden also puts a thick green binder on the counter with articles clipped from the local paper spanning Ryan's entire political career. That binder is also 100 percent viewable online. They've got a similarly fat collection of clips about another Janesville native, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. Braden then takes me to the library's local history database on the Web.

Could I have just put Paul Ryan/General Motors in the key...

BRADEN: Keyword search.

GONYEA: Keyword search.

BRADEN: Exactly. Yes. In fact, a lot of folks just start out that way to get something pulled up and then they can see what the subject...

GONYEA: Braden credits a longtime commitment to the library to build such an online resource.

BRADEN: What excited me and my colleagues when you come is in is that, oh great, here's an opportunity to show you what we have and to toot our horn a bit and share these fabulous resources that we're very proud of.

GONYEA: Then, just before I leave, she offers one last bit of local information. Come back in the spring, Braden says, because the tulips on the library grounds are beautiful. I may just do that.

Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.