Spot the Empire Librarian's blog

Welcome to a librarian's online musings on libraries, literature and information media.

Leave a comment

Lobbying New York State for Library State funding.


I can say with pride that my ‘opposing views’ column appeared in the Buffalo Newspaper recently. I feel that I am doing my part to lobby for much needed support for our NYS community’s libraries. See you in Albany on Library Advocacy Day, Feb 28, 2018.  Tell   lawmakers that you value library services by  clicking on…

As appeared in Buffalo News, 2/7/2018

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s recent executive budget proposes a 3 percent cut in state library aid. Speaking as the executive library director of the Niagara Falls Public Library, I fear this cut will hurt Western New York libraries.


After a near decade of underfunding libraries, the governor’s proposed fiscal year 2019 cuts bring library funding to 2002 levels. However, libraries of today are now operating in a high tech climate expected by our citizens. To maintain technological services mandates trained staff with high-level expertise and a continued investment in new and emerging technologies.


Despite constant threats to funding, Niagara Falls Public Library as the Central Library of the Nioga Library System collectively strives to offer innovative services to our community. Last year, we began offering a “one on one” tutorials to demonstrate the ease our free e-book/audiobook/e-magazine download services. I am proud to say that the Niagara Falls Public Library users benefited.


Since October 2017, we increased our local history hours from nine hours to 20 hours realizing a 86 percent increase in patrons served. The Niagara Falls Public Library, through our shared membership within the Nioga Library System, is able to participate in an intricate automated library catalog system, aid in the coordination of digitizing world-class local history resources, join in the internet networks of 22 libraries, access shared databases in a cost-effective manner and be serviced by Nioga Library System onsite support to maintain each library’s technology.


Our neighbors, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System, offer an equally dynamic service through their 37 libraries as well as their innovative activities.


Nioga Library System’s cooperative services guarantee equitable access to technology across the Niagara, Orleans and Genesee Counties. Because of our system, a resident of Corfu (population 709), a resident of Albion (population 2,500) and a resident of Niagara Falls (population 50,000) all have equal access to up-to-date computers, resourceful databases, adequate bandwidth and a modern collection of digital books and downloadable magazines.


Although libraries like Niagara Falls Public Library are modelling the benefits of shared service, the increased costs of delivering technology services are outstripping realized efficiencies. If the state is unable to provide funding to support local libraries and their library systems, our services will falter and stagnate. Thus, access to technology will lag in the communities that need access the most.

If we truly value equity, education and opportunity, then New York needs to place libraries at the top of its agenda. Libraries are how we guarantee that every New Yorker has access to the lifelong education they need to participate fully in this information economy. For libraries to maintain this critical role, we need to support the massive shift to a technological model of service. I urge all New Yorkers to speak up in favor of library funding. Reach out to your New York State representatives. It is my hope, and that of many New York library leaders, that we will secure full funding for 2018.


Sarah Potwin is executive library director at the Niagara Falls Public Library.

As found


Leave a comment

Partnering with local buisness to honor local history

Thank you to business owner Matt Greene for touring myself and Courtney, our local history librarian, around his new hotel, The Courtyard Marriott of Niagara Falls, NY. This modern hotel celebrates the local history of Niagara Falls by incorporating historic photos from the Niagara Falls Public Library in the decor of the building. The hotel itself is located in the historic Niagara Chocolate factory building which later became Moore’s Business Forms. A photo of the outside of the newly renovated building will be forthcoming.  Due to a recent winter storm in Western New York,  outdoor photography is challenging as that our landscape is covered by four feet of snow.

The above historical photo of the Chocolate Factory greets visitors in the entry foyer, with a plaque explaining the partnership between the Hotel, Niagara Historical Society.  Each photo is cited as originating from the Niagara Falls Public Library.  Courtney, our Local History Librarian was integral in pulling the images from the Library’s collection.

The lobby’s decor, as much of the hotel, is decorated in a contemporary look, yet retains the grittiness of the industrial use of the building, such as the cement pillars in the lobby.

Each image, in the form of a  wall mural at the elevator landing of each floor, or a galvanised burnt aluminium image hanging in the guest room hallways,  offers an authenticity of experience of place.


Our thanks to Matt, one of the hotel’s owners and developers for honouring Niagara Fall’s local heritage.

Leave a comment

Lois McCloskey’s Make way for (Patriots) Duckling

In preparation for the upcoming Super Bowl 52 game, Boston’s most famous ducklings certainly appear to be getting in the spirit. The Boston Public Garden’s iconic bronze Make Way for Ducklings statues are decked out in New England Patriots gear, with “Mrs Mallard” repping New England’s post-season slogan: “One More.”

The Patriots street team is to thank for the stunt, part of a campaign before this weekend’s game promoting Pats fandom and merch. The mother duck wore a scarf around her neck and a beanie atop her head, and the eight ducklings wore baby-sized Patriots jerseys.

Go Pats, go!



Leave a comment

First ever NFPL newsletter

I am beside myself with excitement that our new inaugural Niagara Falls Public Library (NY) newsletter is done and printed and out on the counter circulating.    Many staff hours have gone into creating this ; from  librarians creating the content and programming, to the graphic designer ‘s talent and his back and forth  with edits  and corrections.  (and all with a  smile!)  Thank you to my staff for working beyond their comfort zone and planning ahead. Thank you to CompuMail for  their  design and printing services.

Editions are available on the  counters at both Main and Lasalle Branches of the Niagara Falls Public Library (NY), electronically on our webpage and social media.  Our local  elected officials and funding government bodies will be receiving a hand delivered copy within the week.

newsletter JanFeb.2018

And now, begins the work on the March-April 2017 edition…..

Leave a comment

Season’s readings to you.

622774CF-441D-487D-BE26-B90D8DBE95D8As my favorite season of the year approaches, I am reminded of the good fortunes I and my family have enjoyed in 2017.  Much of those fortunes involved or can be attributed to our love of reading. I would encourage everyone to visit their library and make literacy part of their everyday lives. The benefits are immeasurable.

Seasons readings to you. Best wishes in 2018.5AA443A6-E177-44DB-80AB-6699DB0C129A

Leave a comment

Reading Round Up, 2017

As in past years,  I have been employing as a tool in which to  select, record reading progress and read reviews of new titles.  Below is a list of titles that I have enjoyed this past year.  While 2017 was a busy year for  me personally,   there is always time to read, or enjoy flipping through a book;  whether it be on holiday, time in a car  during a journey to Mummy’s house or while waiting for my son during his swimming lesson.  Like anything else, if you want to do something badly, you will find time to so do.  Now if only I could say the same about exercising……

I love reflecting on my list of titles read.  A number of them are cook books, which take very little time to actually read, I admit. A number of them are new releases which I found in our Baker and Taylor boxes.  Some relate to furniture design, as part of a project in which to  design my new office to compliment the architecture of my new library. A few are art history books., a reflection of my  original academic study of art history. A number relate to  business and work ethics and  work phycology. A handful  books from a series my son is absolutely in love with.  ( As of this publishing , he has read 32 books since September,  while his teacher has communicated  that he is expected to read 6 books  during the entire school year. I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree.)

A few are books received from attending Book Expo of America in May.  One was received while attending New York Library Association.  Both are hazards of the job, I suppose.  And a couple are in celebration of my home and native land’s  250th celebration this year.

While my list is not  an edict to others, let it serve as a documentation of so many great titles enjoyed over 2017.  Interested in any titles?   Reach out to me…am always happy to chat about  book and my I have learned.

  • Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
  • Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
  • The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
  • Canada by Mike Myers
  • 99: Stories of the Game by Wayne Gretzky
  • Food, Health and Happiness: 115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life by Oprah Winfrey
  • Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It by Larry Olmsted
  • How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen
  • The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • Cutting For Stone, the novel by Abraham Verghese
  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
  • The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
  • My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  • The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
  • The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell
  • The bully pulpit : Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the golden age of journalism  by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
  • The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge by Pia Edberg *
  • The Shack by William Paul Young
  • Moon Niagara Falls by Joel A. Dombrowski
  • The identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
  • The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
  • Collecting Modern: A Guide to Mid-Century Furniture and Ceramics by David Rago
  • Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America  by Linda Tirado
  • The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
  • Mid Century Modern by Judith H. Miller
  • Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson
  • A Separation by Katie Kitamura
  • I See You by Clare Mackintosh
  • Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future by Rob Dunn
  • Miller’s 20th Century Design by Judith H. Miller
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • Tony and Susan by Austin Wright
  • Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse by Stanley Meisler
  • One Part Plant: 100 Meals for a Whole New You by Jessica Murnane
  • The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers
  • Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms by Erin Benzakein
  • Beach House for Rent (The Beach House Book 3) by Mary Alice Monroe *
  • A New Way to Bake: Classic Recipes Updated with Better-for-You Ingredients from the Modern Pantry by Editors of Martha Stewart Living
  • Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers by Suze Yalof Schwartz
  • Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker
  • Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
  • Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith
  • Almost Adulting: All You Need to Know to Get It Together by Arden Rose
  • The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art by Sebastian Smee
  • The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton
  • How Cycling Can Save the World by Peter Walker
  • Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs
  • Into the Wild (Warriors, #1) by Erin Hunter
  • Start a Community Food Garden: The Essential Handbook by Lamanda Joy
  • Fire and Ice (Warriors, #2) by Erin Hunter
  • The 13th Day of Christmas by Jason F. Wright
  • Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
  • An Irish Country Cookbook by Patrick Taylor
  • Second House from the Corner by Sadeqa Johnson
  • Rising Storm (Warriors, #4) by Erin Hunter
  • Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
  • Digitizing Your Collection: Public Library Success Stories by Susanne Caro
  • This is what a librarian looks like : a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information  by Kyle Cassidy
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
  • Beartown by Fredrik Backman
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
  • Al Franken, giant of the Senate  by Al Franken
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  • Marrying Miss Kringle: Ginger by Lucy McConnell
  • Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
  • The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
  • Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
  • Chocolate Making Adventures by Rosen Trevithick
  • Japanese Fabric Flowers: 65 decorative Kanzashi flowers to make by Sylvie Blondeau
  • Camino Island by John Grisham
  • The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
  • Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
  • Winter Solstice (Winter #4) by Elin Hilderbrand
  • Artemis by Andy Weir
  • Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  • Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times by Nancy Koehn 
  • Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
  • Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan 
  • Cute Christmas Cookies: Adorable and delicious festive treats by Hannah Miles 
  • The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott 
  • Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks
  • Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek
  • Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith
  • Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
  • The Maple Syrup Book by Janet Eagleson
  • Jul: Swedish American Holiday Traditions by Patrice Johnson
  • Holiday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season by Elisabet Der Nederlanden
  • Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler
  • In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmon
  •  Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
  • The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser

Leave a comment

Net Neutrality…or why we do not need to be creating the haves and have nots of Internet services.

I am extremely concerned about the  federal government’s current plan destroy Net Neutrality with the FCC will vote  on Dec. 14

As a professional who works in a library,  I see first hand on a daily basis the importance our public internet / wifi service is to our  citizens, many of who do not have internet access .  Librarians, by the very nature of  what we do, support  1st amendment rights, and right of our citizens to free and equal access to information.  I personally lie awake at night worried that the FCC plan will:

  • End Title II protections and erase the three Net Neutrality rules passed at the FCC in 2015 and upheld in court last year.
  • Legalize internet blocking and discrimination by Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, no questions asked.
  • Permit throttling back the speeds of different kinds of websites and apps.
  • Encourage paid prioritization — sticking most sites and apps in the slow lane and reserving the fast lane for the few wealthy companies that can afford special treatment.
  • That the added cost for internet subscribers to access information could cost libraries (as organizations that are internet subscribers) millions of dollars in added taxes to provide open access to the Internet.  By they way, we will be using your tax dollars which support the operation of the library, to pay those taxes…
  • We are concerned that major media conglomerates will censor political speech or stop competition to their old cable-TV and telephone businesses.

It’s been shown time and time again that Title II of the Communications Act is the best and only foundation for Net Neutrality rules we have right now. And it gives the FCC the authority to enforce other important rules about broadband affordability, privacy and competition. Title II works, plain and simple

In laymen’s terms. Think of two highways.   The autobahn is available to a select few who can afford it.  And a  dirt  country road avail to those who cannot afford otherwise.   Access to the internet is not a luxury utility but an essential service.

Please write to your congressional rep  and /or state Senator to  voice your concern regarding the importance of net neutrality.