Pastor Donnell Cromartie just needed a little help.

The blind minister had a computer and smartphone but struggled with how to use them.

So when he learned about the Book a Librarian program at Wayne County Public Library, he took advantage of the option.

His request has turned into a friendship and a golden opportunity, he says now.

Since being paired with Will Szwagiel, reference librarian, about a year ago, the two meet once or twice a month.

The reference librarian has been helping Cromartie with the accessibility features on his devices, said Maegan Wilson, head of adult services.

"He's a preacher and sometimes he wants to set up a prayer line or reach out to the congregation, and we helped him make that a possibility," she said.

Szwagiel did not know what to expect when he first met Cromartie, he said.

"When I first began assisting him, I admittedly did not know how to go about helping him because I had never assisted someone who was blind before, and trying to find a way to kind of explain things to him without relying on visual points," he said.

"I think we were learning together, but I've helped him with a lot of different things from using his computer to, most recently, helping him set up his new cellphone because, obviously, he has to have a voice recognition and everything spoken to him."

The process has required a bit of adaptability on both their parts, Szwagiel said.

The rewards, though, have made it all worthwhile.

"He's a minister and I was able to help him actually go through the process of having all this paperwork turned into the state and have his ministry officially recognized as a church, so I felt like that was a really big step for him," he said, adding that the two men have developed a rapport and work well together. "It's a much different situation, and I've certainly come to know him a lot more personally, and I think he's come to know me a lot more personally than many of our other patrons might under those circumstances.

"It's definitely been a very rewarding experience for me, personally, especially with finding out that he was able to get the OK regarding his ministry and everything because it's clearly something he's very passionate about."

Cromartie is dedicated and faithful in his attendance.

"I ride the bus," he said. "I live about two and one-half miles away. I don't let nothing slow me down or get in my way."

There are a lot of visually impaired people in the community who might also benefit from the service, he said.

But even those without such a challenge should take advantage, he said.

"I will refer anyone if they need some assistance on the computer, the technology stuff," said Cromartie, the pastor of New Foundation Church Outreach Ministry. "Mr. Will helped me with learning computer. I came here and he was the one that helped me with what I needed, like how to get things printed and stuff.

"He's a professional, and we have become great friends."

Just call him Cromartie's "personal librarian," Wilson said with a smile.

The Book a Librarian concept has been used widely in other libraries, she explained, and has grown in popularity at the Wayne County branches.

"It's a one-on-one service that we provide, where if a patron needs help with computers, like a specific issue or some minimal help applying for a job, they just call us and usually we require 48 hours notice," Wilson said. "They just call us and then they book a librarian, so we'll make an appointment with them. We sit down for an hour. We typically do it up to twice a month for each person."

The service is free, she added, and is an outgrowth of sorts from the computer classes being offered. Attendance in those began to dwindle, she said, because either the timing didn't work or there were specific questions that needed attention sooner or might not be covered in the session.

Appointments are based on the availability of the librarians, Wilson explained, as well as convenience for the patron.

While most of the sessions deal with technology, a good mix centers around the job search.

"We have a great career program that just kicked off with our new reference librarian, Tikela Alston, and it's called Prep for Success," Wilson said. "She goes through preparing for job interviews, preparing resumes, things like that, and she can also do some of that on a one-on-one basis through the Book a Librarian program.

"She will sit down with them and help them understand what employers are looking for."

Alston will not do applications or resumes for them but she will assist with any questions, Wilson said, adding that the program has become both popular and beneficial.

"So far, most of the people she's done Book a Librarians with have been successful and gotten jobs," she said. "She has a very high success rate with that.

"She's made a lot of partnerships with area temp agencies and various companies that are hiring, so she kind of talks with their recruiters and knows what they're looking for."

For more information or to book a librarian, call 919-735-1824 and select Option 3.