Spot the Empire Librarian's blog

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

Leave a comment

Improving access to NFPL’s Local History

I am pleased to work with talented and eager staff  at the Niagara Falls Public Library (NY).  By working together,  shifting a few duties,  we are able to  increase the  availability of the Niagara Falls Public Library’s Local History hours  from 9 hours per week to 20 hours per week , all without  an increase in cost to tax payers.

Niagara Falls Public Library Executive Director Sarah Potwin, center, worked with her staff to increase hours for the Local History department, which is operated by Librarian Courtney Geerhart, left, and clerk Helga Schultz, right. The three stand with an impressive exhibit Schultz assembled of notable Niagara County women, ranging from the Seven Sutherland Sisters to Joyce Carol Oates. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Below is a  recently published article in the local Buffalo News.


Leave a comment

Diversifying services to needs of community.

Since beginning my  tenure with the Niagara Falls Public Library in July, I am noticing recurring  issues,  concerns which need to be addressed and ideas for improved services.

One part of my responsibility is to better market the library.  By composing a monthly column in our local news paper, Niagara Gazette,  I am able to get the word out of what we do and of what we plan to do.    Below is a listing of my  inaugural article, as appeared in the Gazette on Sunday, September 3rd.

“Bad libraries build collections…

Good libraries build services…

Great libraries build communities…”

Since beginning my tenure as Executive Director of the Niagara Falls Public Library in June, I see the valued asset to which the library is to the community.  I also see the potential for what more it can become. Within the coming months, watch for our services to diversify services offered to our citizens.

In just a few short weeks, changes can be summed up as new faces, new services, and new changes.   In August, we welcomed a new staff member to our adult reference services.  As of October 2nd, our world renowned Local History Department increased its hours of service to 20 hours, up from 9 hours per week.   Visitors to our Children’s Room will notice the newly installed aquarium with brightly colored fish.  I invite patrons to participate in our fish naming contest.  (One fish will be named Earl in honor of our building’s namesake!)  We are increasing our technology offerings with a tutorial video service via our website; allowing patrons to learn and develop their workplace skills. offers over 6,000 instructional videos on a variety of topics from desk top computer programs, how to write a business plan, writing resumes, to time management skills, maximizing your FitBit, how to set up a blog, interview skills and designing a logo to name a few. will be available to all Niagara Falls Library card holders, as well as those in the Nioga Library system who carry a NFPL card by mid September.

In order to be better responsive to our community, I strongly encourage community groups to reach out…. programming ideas, creating a display and more.  If you have partnership ideas, please contact me at .

During my tenure, please know that I am interested in building a better Niagara Falls community through strengthened population driven services which are fiscally responsible.  At Niagara Falls Public Library, we are always striving for greatness. Just watch us!  We are looking for partnerships to build within the community, in which to create a better quality of life for our citizens.

Let’s build great communities…together.


P.S. Thank you to the Buffalo News for  taking this snap of my in our library’s front garden.  You captured the  lush and tranquility of the garden is a definitive fashion. The workof our volunteers shows through.

Leave a comment

What librarians do on vacation.

Librarians read while on vacation.  They try to make a dent in their reading pile, the one which teeters precariously on their bedside tables. Yes, we read. In case there was ever any doubt.  Or we nap in lawn chairs by  a very pretty lake,  with our half open books.

I will admit to being dog tired  from an exhausting 365 days. And finishing up my job.  And packing up my house.  And preparing for the move to our new home. And planning out my course of action for my new job.

To sit by the shores of Lake Champlain,  watching beautiful sunsets over the Adirondack mountain, listening to the  water lap against the  rock wall and the wind   rustling the poplar tree branches is the most peaceful therapy I can imagine.  My husband  and son enjoy seeking their  fishing spots in Lake Champlain.  Miss Lily  enjoys the holiday; the  wind in her fur while sunning herself on the veranda.  Her ears prick up when  wildlife appear on the property.  It is a quiet and peaceful time.

I have been asked what do we read while on holiday?  This year,  I will admit to a huge stack of magazines: Real Simple, Good House Keeping, Martha Stewart,   HGTV Magazine, Make, This Old House and an Ethan Allen catalog.   I also brought along a  few ARCs collected from last week’s adventure at Book Expo.

  • The Circle by David Eggers
  • The identicals by Elin Hilderband
  •  The Late Show by Micheal Connelly
  • Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
  • Digitizing your collection by Susanne Caro
  • Warriors #4 : Rising Storm by Erin Hunter

Happy summer 2017.

Leave a comment

Book Expo of America – or how I got a jump on my aquistion pre-orders.

I admit it. I look forward to Book Expo of America (BEA) each and every year.  Not only does it happen at a time of year when we are exhausted from planing  summer reading programs,  when the  following year’s budget proposal is  firmed up and ready for the trustee’s approval,  but it is that lag time between  finishing up spring work and revving up for summer time vacations.    BEA is a  trade conference for those who are involved in the book trade in America.  Bloggers, publishers, authors, illustrators, book jobbers etc. all converge together for a  three-day love fest of the written word.  Each year, I am amazed when looking around the crowded conference  floor, taking in the hurly burly of activity. “The print word is dead ” the naysayers claim. No one reads any more…I beg to differ.

So,  this year’s BEA experience was much different from last year.  Namely, the location  has reverted back to New York City.   Most notably,  I was able to take in the show with a fellow co-worker, Lisa.

Now,  not only is it a more pleasant trip when it can be a shared experience with someone who is a fun personality,  though, I admit, she knows Manhattan way better than I.   I think that we mutually had a fun time, learned lots and both have long lists of new items to place orders  with out book jobbers.

After taking the train from Poughkeepsie, we stopped by the New York Public Library, Stephen Schwarzman location in Mid Town.  Lisa has a special connection to the NYPL lions:  her great-grandfather carved them. Yes, I admit to dropping in quick to apply for my library card.  As an association library,  New York Public Library cards are available to all New Yorkers regardless of where they live in the state, not just the Island of Manhattan.  With proof of a New York residency (such as my driver’s license),   I am now able to access  the NYPL’s vast electronic resources  from anywhere as well as their physical collection when I am in the city.  Ebooks, here I come!

From there, we  checked into our hotel, The Stewart Hotel, kiddy corner from Madison Square Gardens and Penn Station. This newly renovated hotel was exceptionally quiet and clean and tastefully decorated.  I think that Lisa and I marveled over most was their  lobby seating area.  Think Minecraft topography.

Then  we walked over to the Javitts Center to check in and collect our conference badges.  The entry lobby of the Javitts is a pretty  structure of glass and steel,  yet the publisher banners  decorate it.

From there,  we walked the Highline, a tribute to urban renewal. This  formerly abandoned railcar track has been transformed into a  restful garden walking path….a tourist spot unto itself.  Our destination was Little Italy,  in search of a yummy supper.  No trip to New York is complete  without a meal in Little Italy with my favorite Little Italian ( Lisa knows that I called her this.) Admittedly,  this was one of my top 10 meals of my life.  Uber tasty.

From there,  we  travelled to the Library Hotel  #libraryhotel  (hastag # awesome !) in Mid Town for an evening drink on the Roof Top Bar. Oh, if only we could have stayed at the hotel…everything is library themed.  From the decor, to the names of each floor to the books left on the nightstand.  The bar menu is reflective of  literary themes: Tequila Mockingbird ,  The Hemingway for example. It was a pretty  night with a blue sky.  60 miles north in Poughkeepsie,  tornadic activity was  touching down.  Unbelievable.  Home feels like a world away.

From there,  we were exhausted and made it back to our hotel clocking in 8.9 miles on our pedometers.   We clearly worked off our delish supper from  Da Gennaro on Mulberry Street.

One of the exciting  events was accidentally running into a former co-worker from my Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School (Florida) days.  On the first morning,  when crossing the street  from our hotel to a Starbucks to grab a morning coffee,  Paula H.  must have noticed me  in the cross walk, then followed me into  line @ SBUX.  I heard a voice behind me and we chatted. I was beyond dumbfounded,  though happy to see Paula.

We met up with many  authors for signings.  Some of which were more  well-known in literacy circles than others.  Micheal Connelly, Elin Hildebrand, John Grisham, Peter Lerangis, Brandon Mull, James Paterson, Jordan Sonnenblick (who recognized me from my Facebook avatar), Christina Baker Kline,  and more.   We also met other authors who are perhaps, more well-known in celebrity circles. Astronaut Scott Kelly was a highlight , without a doubt.  No one was at this table in the publishers booth,  so  Lisa and I walked right up to meet him without a wait. He asked me if “I ever have to threaten patrons to bring  their books back?”   “Sometimes,”  I answered. He smirked in response.   Savannah Guthrie, NBC newscaster was very charming.  Meeting Chris Jericho, a wrestler and fellow Canuck seemed to impress my husband,  suddenly giving BEA street cred, he claimed.  And the Bush twins,  whose mother Laura was a librarian and their father a U.S. President were present to publicize their latest book.

And of all famous personalities,  I was fortunate to met up with the uber fabulous Michele Capozella,  Executive Director of the Mahopc Library, fellow Mid Hudson Library Director and good friend. We enjoyed lunch  and a quiet restful spot at the Publisher’s Weekly sponsored Librarian Lounge  to compare conference show notes.

Each booth is decorated differently, promoting various themes books and materials which that publisher specializes in.  Some are more creative than others.   Some booths are larger than others,  depending on the market share of the publisher.

I was happy to meet up with Phil Springsted,  as I do every year.  Phil is not only a Dad to  my former  students in Florida,  but a book publisher and a fellow Canuck.   I was happy to hear of the children’s scholastic successes and of their summer vacation plans.

My Auntie seemed impressed that I met lawyer turned author John Grisham.  The line up was long for those of us who had tickets.  Ultimately,  after a 45 minute wait,  Mr. Grisham was  re-situated at another table, having gone over his allotted time at the scheduled signing area.   He was gracious and chatted with everyone who lined up.  Again, he was  very congenial towards those of us who are librarians.

Every year,  we seem to end the show with  Elin Hilderband.  While waiting in line,  I was interviewed for NPR’s Morning Edition.  The segment is to air on June 30, 2017 on the topic of  summer reading and beach reads. I cannot imagine a more fitting author than Elin Hilderbrand’s books a summer reads.  “They always come back full of sand,”  I told the reporter.  Both Lisa and I  enjoy partaking  of the  Corona beer handed out  at Elin’s signings. At the end of the day,  it is cold and wet and we are tired but happy. Since Anna,  another co-worker,  joined us on the last day of the  conference,  we showed her around the exhibition floor.  We split up in periodically to  visit different booths.   Both Anna and Lisa met Chad Micheal Murray, an actor from the tv show Gilmore Girls. He was attending BEA to  promote a novel he wrote with Heather Graham.  Both girls were giddy from  his meet up.

At the end of the conference,  we repackaged  out various tote bags, consolidating space and shipped  everything home via FedEx.  It was  a cost saving measure to use the FedEx two blocks away from the Javitts Center,  as well as a back injuring saving move on our part.  Our  boxes shipped out varying weights of 58-63 pounds.  I am glad that we paced out selves and did not pick up EEEEVVVVVEERY free book offered. ( Yes, Lisa, I told you to pace yourself.)All in all, another great time at BEA.  I am leaving with  long lists of new books to order with my book jobber when I return.   To be able to pre-order these high demand titles ,  which benefit  my library patrons to be able to place holds on items before they are released.  I then am able to keep an eye  on the high demand holds and order additional copies as demand dictates.  Thus creating  high patron satisfaction with extra copies in circulation.    I appreciate my employer allowing me the opportunity to attend this event and  learn the temperature of  the literary market as well as better plan out my acquisitions budget.    BEA,  see you next year,  May 30-June 1, 2018.

1 Comment

Potwins on the mooooove.

Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851Yes , the Potwins are crossing the Hudson River,  though in a much less dramatic fashion than that of Washington’s  crossing of the Delaware on December 25, 1776.  Again,  echoing the Summer of 2013 migration to  rolling hills area of the Hudson Valley in New York ,  the Potwins are mooooving farther  North during Summer of 2017.

Good bye to my LaGrange colleagues, talented staff members,  fellow Mid-Hudson Library System librarians,  Friends of the Library and patrons of the LaGrange Association Library.   Goodbye to  Dutchess County and life in the Hudson Valley.

Everything we own is in a box or container of some sort,  traveling  North West by 6 hours.  And there are no mysterious rattles in our boxes (as of yet).  Wheef!  Hello, Niagara Falls!  I welcome the challenges you present as your new Executive Director.  In the spacious light filled main branch and quaint neighborhood Lasalle Branch.

Look at you!

So striking in architectural style yet an anchor to your community and downtown vibe.

So light filled.

So culturally vibrant.

So culturally rich is your local history collection.

So well-loved by your community.

So rich in potential community partnerships.  The possibilities are ripe and waiting for implementation!

It is an area we can subscribe to its virtuous beauty,  its natural wonders,  its friendly people and its way of life.  We Potwins are looking forward to acclimatizing to Eoin’s new school,  celebrating apple Fall festivals,  touring historic sites, cooler seasonal weather, winter skiing and skating,  summer fishing on the many freshwater streams and Lake Ontario,  taking in cultural festivals and museums, to absorb the nature of Niagara area.

I am looking forward to working my magic and fostering a warm literary aspect to the community.     I have met many genuine and welcoming people in this urban community of 50 000. The staff at both the Niagara Falls Main Branch as well as the Lasalle Branch libraries can be described as friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, talented and inviting among their many qualities. The local history collection is world renowned and draws researchers from many countries. Please feel free to stop in to visit, express your concerns and voice your suggestions.  Niagara’s city history is highlighted by the generous support of the community. It is my vow to continue this goodwill and creative offering of services which emanate from this historic building.

I look forward to meeting many citizens, either in person, electronically on the Niagara Public Library Facebook page, by email at  . My office door is open!  Interested in programming or specific issues?  The new fundraising ideas? Volunteering? Pick up the telly and call me at  716-286-4894.

With appreciation,    Mummy will still be relatively close by….a 5-hour drive as well as a 4-hour train ride away.  Thankfully, my son will still be able to enjoy his Grandmother, as we initially anticipated from our migration from Florida in 2013. No doubt you will see him in and around the library, often with a selection from the Artemis Fowl series or an Alex Rider novel in one of the children’s room lounge chairs.

 Potwins:  onwards and upwards. Bass fish in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario:  beware.  Tom Brady,  we’ll see you soon during your Buffalo Bills games.


Leave a comment

An auspicious year —150th celebration of confederation.

Each time I come home for a visit,  I feel that my roots are re-energized.  And my sentences are liberally sprinkled with ‘eh’s?   Thank Mike Myers for our recent (albeit, late) centennial project.  Just in time to celebrate our sesquicentennial.


Mike Myers is a world-renowned actor, director and writer, and the man behind some of the most memorable comic characters of our time. But as he says: “no description of me is truly complete without saying I’m a Canadian.” He has often winked and nodded to Canada in his outrageously accomplished body of work, but now he turns the spotlight full-beam on his homeland.
His hilarious and heartfelt new book is part memoir, part history and pure entertainment. It is Mike Myers’ funny and thoughtful analysis of what makes Canada Canada, Canadians Canadians and what being Canadian has always meant to him. His relationship with his home and native land continues to deepen and grow, he says. In fact, American friends have actually accused him of enjoying being Canadian–and he’s happy to plead guilty as charged.
A true patriot who happens to be an expatriate, Myers is in a unique position to explore Canada from within and without. With this, his first book, Mike brings his love for Canada to the fore at a time when the country is once again looking ahead with hope and national pride. Canada is a wholly subjective account of Mike’s Canadian experience. Mike writes, “Some might say, ‘Why didn’t you include this or that?’ I say there are 35 million stories waiting to be told in this country, and my book is only one of them.”
This beautifully designed book is illustrated in colour (and not color) throughout, and its visual treasures include personal photographs and Canadiana from the author’s own collection. Published in the lead-up to the 2017 sesquicentennial, this is Mike Myers’ birthday gift to his fellow Canadians. Or as he puts it: “In 1967, Canada turned one hundred. Canadians all across the country made Centennial projects. This book is my Centennial Project. I’m handing it in a little late. . . . Sorry.”