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Artz keeps Washington County library media center in order

June 09, 2008|By JANET HEIM

Media Specialist Pam Rubisch said the Emma K. Doub Media Center has never been in such great shape. She gives the credit to Alan Artz II's eagle eye for order and to his computer skills.

Artz, 22, has been volunteering with Rubisch on Tuesdays and Thursdays this school year, along with Thelma Coffman, his job coach through the statewide New Directions program. The program is a private, nonprofit career counseling and job-placement agency dedicated to helping individuals contribute to their community, according to the agency's Web site.

Artz, who has autism, thrives in the order of the library. He also works at Winter Street Elementary on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"He knows the system inside and out," Coffman said.

For three years, while a student at Williamsport High School, Artz volunteered at the town library in Williamsport. He also worked in the Williamsport High media center for a school year.

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His love for books and the library fueled his desire to continue, either in a paid position or as a volunteer, after his high school graduation in 2005.

Artz and his parents, Alan "Buck" and Diane Artz of Williamsport, were frustrated that no one seemed interested in the offer of his skills -- until they met Rubisch. She and Coffman were recently presented the Dream Catcher Award by Service Coordination Inc. for helping make Alan's dreams come true -- an award that Coffman describes as a "shocker."

Service Coordination is an unbiased advocate for people with developmental disabilities. The Hagerstown office is one of 13 across Maryland and helps locate services and support systems for those with developmental disabilities.

Rubisch said Alan is very reliable and hasn't missed a day of work. She is quick to say that she benefits far more than Alan.

"Don't judge a book by its cover. We teach the kids that. Alan has proven himself priceless," Rubisch said.

She adds that she is a better teacher with Artz as an assistant because she can focus on her students, while Artz handles some of the clerical work. Artz bar codes new books, checks books in and out for students, does computer research for Rubisch and is a whiz at installing computer software.

"It has worked out to be the perfect operation for Alan and I, and Thelma, too," Rubisch said.

Coffman, a registered nurse, was employed by the Washington County Board of Education, where she helped Alan manage his Type 1 diabetes while at school. She left that position to be Alan's job coach through the New Directions program.

"I've been just overwhelmed of how the teachers and staff have accepted us. We feel like we're part of the staff," Coffman said.

Artz also has a knack for remembering historical details, and Rubisch and Coffman think he would be invaluable working in the history section of the central library.

For now, Artz is content keeping Emma K. Doub's and Winter Street's media centers in tip-top shape. This summer, though, he and Coffman will move with Rubisch to Rockland Woods Elementary School, where Rubisch will be the media specialist.

They will start work mid-July cataloguing and setting up the media center with its 12,000 new books.

"For this to all have come together -- what a blessing. Pam has really taken Alan under her wing and has pushed him to grow. He's made friends, he's made an impact and isn't that what it's all about?" Diane Artz said.

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