Honk if you see us out on the road.

The Niagara Falls Public Library’s current delivery van, a 2006 Dodge van,  is still running, with a handful of mysterious knocks and minor rust.  The “Beast”  allows us to transfer requested library materials between Main and Lasalle Branches,  gets staff to meetings at Nioga Library System and NF City Hall.  With the generosity of a SAM grant, sponsored by our NY Assemblyman  Angelo Morinello,  we have invested in a new vehicle, a 2022 Equinox.  Thank you to Streamline Designs for creating a dynamic design to advertise library services and to our NF City Hall ‘s Purchasing Dept for licensing this vehicle in our fleet.

And what name did we elect for our new vehicle? The Nancy Pearl, of course. And she endorsed it…the REAL Nancy Pearl, that is!

Thank you for our new vehicle, Assemblyman Morinello. Not only is this a new marketing piece for library services, but it is a safer vehicle to transport our staff. Many of the standard safety features on a 2022 basic model were luxurious features in 2006. (like power locks, airbags and collision alert). However, power windows and floor mats are pretty spiffy too. Honk if you see us out on the road.

Partnering with enthusiastic architecture students

The cornerstone of any good library service is a librarian who recognizes the need to partner with a variety of like-minded community organizations. The Niagara Falls Public Library partners with many traditional, neighboring organizations that one would expect: The Niagara Falls City School District, Heart and Soul Food Bank, Salvation Army of Niagara Falls, AARP tax help, Social Security Administration, Buffalo Niagara Literacy, NF Memorial Hospital, National NF Heritage Foundation, NF Peacekeepers just to name a few. We also partner will local businesses to display many of our photographs from our local history collection. 

As of September 2021, we hosted a group of Master’s in Architecture students from the University of Buffalo as part of their atelier relating to Brutalist architecture. A component of this atelier ( or ‘workshop’ in English, if you prefer) is to create opportunities for community service to better educate others on the merit of Brutalism or preserve existing examples of Brutalism architecture.

I am so very proud of these students and the creativity that they brought forth. Some students created postcards with the NF library’s facade. Others brought forth the Cats of Instagram. Others constructed a wooden model of the original library building. Another group is scanning Paul Rudolph’s original architectural plans of the library building for the preservation of future researchers. Another group created what has become known as the barrier sails project.

In an effort to replace the ugly and tattered yellow caution tape that blocks off half the Main Library to foot traffic, our UB Architecture students came up with a dacron orange triangle sail, in conjunction with caution signage to warn patrons of our uneven flooring and a potential tripping hazard. After writing a proposal and presenting the idea to our NF library board, above are the proto-type sails in what has been dubbed Paul Rudolph orange, affixed to our metal shelving with breakaway metal hooks and magnets.

After mastering the use of an industrial sewing machine and the creation of multiple versions of the sail pattern to induce strength, the final product was installed and presented on Friday, December 17, 2021, to the visiting media. The final design included security peek-a-boo holes to create security sight lines down each aisle.

I offer a huge thank you and gratitude to Professors Gregory Delaney and Brett Doster who lead their group of architecture students to create betterment all the while promoting appreciation and usability of Brutalist architecture. Our NF library is much better for its creative efforts.

Making a makerspace … or…new services for patrons

Much of 2021 has taught me that good things beget good things. And I was reminded that grants are both wonderful and a lot of work.

Niagara Falls Public Library Makerspace

In June of 2021, the Niagara Falls Public Library graciously accepted a 45K grant from the American Library Association, aimed at rebuilding tech services to libraries hit hard by COVID. Not only were we the only library in New York State to receive the generous grant, but one of two libraries in the country to receive the largest sum by this granting body.

With news of this ALA Tech grant, came another generous donation from the Grace Foundation of Buffalo in the form of $4 500. Then, our Federal Communication Commission (FCC) grant, Phase 1 was awarded in the early Fall. The FCC grant of 133K funded the purchase of 200 Chrome books and 200 wifi hot spots to loan out to our patrons with the aim of bridging the digital divide in our community. Close to 30% of our NF citizens are without wifi service in their homes, due to the high cost. Finally, we have 27K awarded by the National Library of Medicine to fund the construction and installation of 2 privacy pods and technology to support our telehealth efforts: a private place to allow for Zoom calls a doctor, conducting research with one of our newly subscribed medical databases. By the end of March, patrons will see the installation of these two pods, plus a third ADA accessible pod and technology to service our NF patrons.

Looking ahead, we have a few more grants in the hopper: grants to fund the continuing work of completing an inventory of our local history collection, grants to fund boosting the wifi signal beyond the library parking lot to a 2 block by 4 block area around 1425 Main Street.

Any non-profit professional will agree with me, receiving the news of the grant, receiving the actual funds are the most exhilarating point which then gives away to the work. This comes in the form of tasks that the public does not see: re-wiring the maker space room to accommodate the electrical load (thank your NF City Electricians!), ordering the necessary equipment, researching what is needed, planning to promote it, tracking the funds, completing reports that adhere to the grantee’s deadlines.

Gino the City Electrician’s handy dandy work

While the makerspace is currently up and running, and the ribbon cutting is over, the visit of our government representatives come and gone we are now working with NF City Hall to affix city inventory tags and work through the logistics and policies of loaning out hot spots and chrome books. We are planning travel with our Maryland-based archival company to plot out local history inventory efforts for 2022. Contracts for construction of pods, and construction plans to move existing electrical and Cat 4 wiring are afoot.

While 2021 was busy, I forsee 2022 will be equally as busy with the implementation of new and improved services for our Niagara Falls citizens.

Ted Lasso Style Management, Or, How I Learned To Be A Better Library Leader

During a class presentation last week in my library admin course, I discovered a reference to Ted Lasso, the AppleTV program. While I had heard of the program while surfing my tv subscription menus at home, my interest was further peaked.

oAs part of the 2013-2014 NBC season, the network acquired the broadcast rights to the English Premier League. The Network ran commercials featuring a fictional American Football coach, the perpetually sunny optimist character named Ted Lasso. Played by actor/ comedian Jason Sudeikis, Lasso is hired to coach English football —which is soccer to most Americans. The four-minute commercial poked fun at the British obsession with their version of our football sport.

Through a storyline where Lasso is hired to fail and drag the team down with him, everyone underestimates his ability and perpetual positive work ethic. It is Lasso’s management style that brings the team into a more cohesive state, allowing them to win, despite several characters’ attempts two thwart his efforts, unbeknowsed to Ted.

Lasso’s philosophy “Be a good person, respect others and judge no one” is so much more complex that it appears on the surface. While participating in Brene Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us”, Sudeikis describes Ted as

“…egoless. He allows people to be themselves and reflect what they think he is, but really what they are.”

Ted accepts everyone as they are, without judgment, flaws, and all. He shows unconditional love.

Four episodes in and I am hooked on Ted’s version of what a good leader is.  Admittedly, I find myself jotting down quotes and his management lessons which have struck me as profound in a simple, yet endearing way. Without being a spoiler to future episodes, here are 15 lessons I learned from Ted:

Treat people with respect – This means to treat everyone from the kit man (water boy) to the Chairman of the Board with the same respect; every person has value.

Communicate and fit people into your daily routine– Ted begins every day with “Biscuits with the Boss.” When he started this routine with Rebecca, the team owner, she wanted nothing to do with it.  But Ted insisted saying “we can’t be good partners if we don’t know each other.”  This means getting to know people by being curious and asking questions and really listening to the answers.

Be a goldfish – According to Ted, a goldfish has a 15-second memory. He wants his players to make mistakes and move on.  Do not dwell on the mistake, learn from it. https://youtu.be/_KXqWCLHgHg

Be understanding – Communicating with his players allows Ted to understand them and what they are experiencing. Whether it is a player’s first time away from home or a veteran dealing with losing a step or two, having that perspective allows a manager to have empathy.

Be a mentor – Ted had a great quote for his captain, “You know how they say youth is wasted on the young, I say don’t let the wisdom of age be wasted on you.” He was encouraging him to be a mentor for one of the junior players and share his experiences.

Good ideas can come from anywhere – Whether asking for advice on roster moves or dealing with his personal relationship issues with the Diamond Dogs, Ted has the ability and willingness to engage others on topics and issues where they have no agency over. Having no ego allows Ted to solicit and accept support from all levels of the organization.  He always does what is best for the team and not necessarily himself.

Obstacles can be opportunities – Take difficult situations and make them learning experiences so it is not so bad the next time around.

Take the time to get to know the players and the community surrounding the team – Be a positive, productive part of the community.

Teammates don’t need to be best friends to be great – Ted uses examples such as Shaq & Kobe, Lennon & McCartney, Woody & Buzz. Players simply need to have mutual respect.

Don’t judge a book by its cover – Amazing talent can be discovered in some of the most unusual packages and places.

Symbolism is important – Rituals and the severity of the initiation can bond a team together through shared experience.

Leaders don’t always have to be taskmasters – Sometimes they need to be cheerleaders as well.

Allow the members of the team to shine – Ted allows members of his staff to shine. He gives them credit and highlights their achievements which provides motivation and incentive to everyone in the organization and allows them to achieve the impossible.

“Be curious, not judgmental.” – Ted uses this quote from Walt Whitman to express his frustration that most people in his life have second-guessed his ability without getting to know him. They simply judged him without understanding him.

Believe! – From the beginning of Ted’s time in Richmond, the fictional city in England where Ted has landed, it was clear that this was his motto. Ted mounted a “Believe” sign in the locker room.  It is at the core of who Ted Lasso is – hope, opportunity, and love.

The true power of Ted Lasso is his ability to be fully present to each person he is with, and to be completely vulnerable during every interaction. He makes it clear that he is in each relationship for the long haul and will wear down your protective walls with his perseverance and his love. More importantly, he will never judge your imperfections or tear you down to make himself look better.  Ted’s actions and the impact he has on others provide lessons about being a good spouse, parent, friend, teammate, coach, and person.

Ted is the quintessential leader who mixes optimism, motivation, humor, vulnerability, and love into a powerful tool to accomplish his goal of making everyone a better version of themselves. As goofy as it all appears, I find myself applying several of Ted’s philosophies to my library team.

Back to school

Who’s ready to go back to school? ME!

Since graduating in Spring 1996, I have missed the routine of getting ready to go back to school. Admittedly, working in a school setting had a similar routine, though as a student , it is a unique experience.

Nothing says ‘back to school’ like a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils

Admittedly, I have a fetish for new stationary. There is something evocative about an unmarked pad of paper, pens with matching caps, binders which close with an extra sharp snap ….and don’t get me started on the allure of freshly sharpened pencils…..

Upon acceptance to the Long Island University’s Post Master’s Certificate in Library Administration program last Fall, I begin undertaking the first of the 5 required courses in the coming weeks. I am printing off readings, arranging weekly notes with clearly labeled tabs. The sense of order is that exhilarating .

The exhiliaration of neatly organized labels….can’t you just feel it?

This program, accredited by the New York Board of Eduction Regents, include lessons in library law, library accounting, HR, facilities planning and library principles. I feel that these are lessons which will broaden my leadership skills as that, there are times when running a public library is akin to running a small business. It is all very exciting. For which, I am grateful.

NFPL Community Annual Report, 2020

I give you the 2020 Niagara Falls Public Library Community Annual Report.  These past 18 months have been a true marathon: navigating the COVID-19  protocols, keeping library staff employed, continuing library services in a protracted function, and bouncing back from State funding cutbacks.  To see the community annual report come off the press feels comforting; it is an excuse to stop and reflect on past triumphs. I feel that the 2020 report is less of a ‘look what we did’ theme, and more of a ‘look at the responsive services we offer you’  approach.

I am particularly proud of my staff for their efforts and creativity. Hard copies are available for pick up from the director’s office as well as electronically page 1 and page 2 via our website.

And then, after multiple individuals eyeballed the docuement for spelling and grammatical errors, we sent it to print. Only to return with an error that my eye goes to right away.


Part of being an effective leader is showing emotional intelligence. Admitting errors and not blaming others. While I am disappointed, the best solution was to fix the readily available electronic version and make the hardcopy available upon request, thus controlling/apologizing for the issue of the error.

Yet another learning lesson.

COVID clean out

l like many other individuals, am spending my free time cleaning my house, sorting out my belongings, weeding out unwanted items, outdated receipts, shredding ancient bank statements, donating unwanted (or in some cases non-fitting! Yikes!) clothing, removing cracked dishes, superfluous kitchen gadgets etc. One area of cleaning that I find to be especially gratifying is, cleaning out my purse.

Every mother in the free world will chime in with a yyyyyaaasssss in agreement…..we end up carrying everything in our purse. Many items are needed and necessary, others have no rhyme nor reason…..I can total finding

  • 19 pens of various ink color
  • 4 paper clips
  • a soccer ball inflator valve
  • 2 double AA batteries
  • Tide laundry spot remover pen
  • US Postal stamps
  • my son’s adaptor cable to his iPad
  • the lever to my zero-gravity lawn chair’s beverage table
  • a wild assortment of Target / Home Depot / Christmas Tree shoppe receipts
  • a claim ticket for luggage at a Chicago hotel (my last trip before life shut down)
  • a Canadian poppy
  • 3 outdated and dried out granola bars
  • USB stick
  • a Jar-Jar Binks lego figurine
  • coupon for Bona floor cleaner
  • and the list goes on….

I have also been sorting out cards in my wallet and found my New York Public Library card. It makes me think about my last visit to Manhattan, for Book Expo of America trade show in May 2017. I was with my good friend Lisa and we stopped at the NYPL. It was a sunny day, perfect weather. I had received a NYPL membership that day, available to all NY residents, though active for 3 years. (Mental note to self: must update the card on my next visit to the city.)

Thinking about the day has me stopped in my tracks. It was a great day. Lisa and I walked the Highline to Lower Manhattan, had a fabulous meal in Little Italy and an evening cocktail at the Library Hotel. It was one of the best days ever.

I find myself thinking of the photos we took that day, including of the lions in front of the NY. I remember thinking what a perfect day it was, how the marble lions looked extra majestic in the sunshine.  The photo below catches Lisa’ s pride, as that her grandfather was one of the masons responsible for carving the lions.

For those whose how have never visited the Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue, the flagship Beaux Arts building of the New York Public Library, flanking the grand staircase, are two formidable lions carved from marble are named “Patience” and “Fortitude”.  Their monikers were given during the Great Depression by the mayor of the city, Fiorella La Guardia, who believed that these two qualities were essential to overcome challenging times. 

Fast forward to 2021, I have located my library card, emblazoned with the lion graphic. I find myself thinking of that fun day with Lisa in Manhattan, of the carefree joy of normalcy in our lives.  I find myself thinking that patience and fortitude are two essential qualities to navigate the current COVID global pandemic.    The challenge of living a socially distant life, absent of gathered crowds and celebrations, sanitized in a 6-foot parameter lest contraction of the virus, has been challenging a weary on our souls for well over a year.  Patience for a better time to come. Fortitude to steer through the adversity.

I find, myself thinking about this time in March of last year, as we frantically sought answers and attempted to figure out how to negotiate these treacherous times.  Life has been altered in the name of safety. Now, March 2021, we are coming out of this dreary time. A vaccine available to booster our immunity against this global pandemic.  March 2021 has definitely come in like a lion, as the Spring seasonal phrase goes.  However, patience and fortitude were qualities which have gotten many of us through this trying time.  The month of March 2021 has come in like a lion indeed.

Honoring Indigenous Peoples

Collage of 12 book covers against a dark green background.

To honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday, October 12, The New York Public Library’s librarians and curators have selected 20 books that might serve as an introduction to a rich and diverse heritage of fiction, nonfiction, history, poetry, memoir, and more by and about Indigenous peoples in the United States. The list includes established writers such as Louise Erdrich, N. Scott Momaday, and Joy Harjo as well as newer writers such as Tommy Orange, Stephen Graham Jones, and Jake Skeets.

For 125 years, the Library has collected, preserved, and made accessible to the public books, collections, and other materials that not only entertain and educate but offer readers a range of diverse perspectives on the world. This often means amplifying voices that have in the past been omitted, dismissed, suppressed, or forgotten by history, and ensuring that those voices are heard. The celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day on the same day highlights, for many observers, the United States’ complex relationship and reckoning with its history, especially regarding the past treatment of Indigenous peoples.

Inevitably, this list is just a starting point: there is so much more to explore. At the Library, this includes two databases that are accessible from home with a library card:

  • Indigenous Peoples of North America (Gale Primary Sources): Over 50 digitized archival collections documenting the Indigenous experience from institutions such as the Library of Congress, the Association on American Indian Archives, and the U.S. National Archives. These digitized primary sources include manuscripts, monographs, newspapers, and photographs.
  • Ethnic NewsWatch (1959-present), Proquest: A collection of ethnic, minority, and Indigenous newspapers, magazines, and journals published in America. Includes the full text of over 50 newspapers and magazines, including Akwesasne NotesAmerican Indian Quarterly, and many more.
book cover

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

This history of Indigenous resistance to government and corporate incursions, written by an   activist and researcher of the Colville Confederated Tribes, traces the story from the beginning of European colonization to the 2016 protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

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Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah A. Miranda

Deborah A. Miranda’s mosaical blend of narrative, poetry, photography, and anthropological recordings serves as both a memoir and a history of the Indigenous peoples who live within the current boundaries of California.

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Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

In this classic novel first published in 1977, Tayo, a World War II veteran suffering from what his doctors call “battle fatigue,” returns to the Laguna Pueblo reservation in New Mexico seeking deliverance.

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Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, Jr.

Deloria’s essays, published in the early years of the American Indian Movement, challenge myths and stereotypes about Indigenous peoples in the United States.

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Dark. Sweet.: New & Selected Poems by Linda Hogan

Dark. Sweet. offers readers the sweep of Linda Hogan’s work—including her environmental and spiritual concerns, and her Chickasaw heritage—in spare, elemental, visionary language.

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Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong by Paul Chaat Smith

Smith mixes wide-ranging social, political, and cultural commentary with recollections of his own life, including time spent with the American Indian Movement in the 1970s, to comment on the past and present of Indigenous peoples in the United States.

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Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers: Poems by Jake Skeets

A collection of poems set in Gallup, New Mexico, plagued by alcoholism and violence, where the poet came of age as a young queer Diné man.

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The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer

An anthropologist’s chronicle of the lives of Indigenous peoples in the United States from the Wounded Knee Massacre, which saw nearly 300 Lakota people killed by the U.S. Cavalry, to the present day.

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House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

Based on the author’s own experiences at the Jemez Pueblo, the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel depicts a young man returning from World War II caught between two worlds.

book coverIn Mad Love and War by Joy Harjo

A poetry collection with themes including mortality, the past, violence, love, obsession, nature, travel, memory, desire, and myths.

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Love Medicine: A Novel by Louise Erdrich

An epic story about the intertwined fates of three families—the Kashpaws, the Lamartines, and the Morrisseys—set on and around a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation. Erdrich’s debut won the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Mankiller: A Chief and Her People by Wilma Mankiller & Michael Wallis

The Cherokee activist Wilma Mankiller, who in 1985 became the first woman elected as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, tells her life story, from her childhood on Mankiller Flats to the challenges she faced leading her people toward a new century.

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The Only Good Indians: A Novel by Stephen Graham Jones

Part gothic literary horror, part social commentary, The Only Good Indians tells the story of four friends from the Blackfeet Nation in Montana who find themselves in a desperate struggle for their lives against an entity that wants to exact revenge upon them for what they did on an elk hunt ten years earlier.

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Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance by Nick Estes

Estes, himself an activist and a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, traces the traditions of Indigenous protest movements that led up to the #NoDAPL movement.

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Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance by Leonard Peltier, edited by Harvey Arden

Incarcerated since 1977, Indigenous activist Leonard Peltier shares his life story alongside his philosophical views on prison and how it has affected him.

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Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature by Qwo-Li Driskill, Daniel Heath Justice, Deborah Miranda & Lisa Tatonetti (eds.)

This landmark collection strives to reflect the complexity of identities within Indigenous Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit (GLBTQ2) communities in the United States.

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There There by Tommy Orange

Through his large cast of interwoven characters, Orange explores a wide range of experiences among Indigenous peoples living in the United States in this PEN/Hemingway Award–winning novel.

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When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz

A fast-paced debut that draws upon reservation folklore, pop culture, fractured gospels, and Diaz’s brother’s addiction to methamphetamine

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Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson

After his mother is jailed, a young Cherokee boy, Sequoyah, bonds with another Indigenous child, Rosemary, in the foster home where they have both been placed. Together, they experience deepening feelings for each other while dealing with the scars of their pasts.

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WHEREAS: Poems by Layli Long Soldier

WHEREAS examines the language of the U.S. Government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Indigenous peoples and tribes to explore histories, landscapes, Soldier’s own writing, and her predicament inside national affiliations.

as found on http://www.nypl.org