Spot the Empire Librarian's blog

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

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Reading Round Up, 2017

As in past years,  I have been employing as a tool in which to  select, record reading process 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

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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.

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Happy Thanksgiving wishes to you.

Thanksgiving,  whether  celebrated in October or November, is a  time to reflect and recognize the many good things in our lives. It is a time to celebrate the  blessings bestowed on our lives. Personally, my list could go on and on, as that 2017 was a very good year for the Potwins.  We are appreciative of the good fortunes in our lives,  good health, the quality  of life which we enjoy, the hard work and the opportunities  which have been presented to us.  Here are just a few items which we are celebrating.

Gratitude for…..

  1.  a healthy and happy family.
  2.  my chuckle factory Eoin who views a move to a new city as an adventure,  Niagara Falls taking him closer to his Granny.
  3. Granny being closer.
  4. Granny being in good health.
  5.  Granny.
  6. relaxing, sun filled Vermont trips on the shores of Lake Champlain.
  7. good friends.
  8. a husband who can coordinate a family move with his eyes close.
  9. supportive staff who made the move easy. Do you want to know of a good pizza joint? Well, let me suggest….( I do adore Bob.)
  10.  Bob.
  11. BEA  book expo shows happening in NYC.
  12. for new office furniture.
  13. ARCs (Advance Reader Copies)
  14.  Lisa being the side entertainment at BEA in NYC.
  15. new appliances… so shiny and new
  16.  Talbots’s sales
  17. Talbot’s sales of fine Italian wool suits.  So pretty.
  18. the opportunity to present to my librarian peers at New York Library Association conference in November.
  19.  Alex Trebek’s  support of our alma mater, the University of Ottawa.
  20. #PSL...yyyaaaaasssss…
  21. being able to celebrate Thanksgiving twice. For enjoying turkey twice.  And cranberries.
  22. Bennington Pottery. So pretty.
  23. Eoin and Scott  being healthy.
  24.  new eye glasses
  25. Eoin’s new  found love of cooking.
  26.  good friends.  Yes Lisa. I am looking at you. And Jenn. And Karen.
  27.  a comfortable home to be safe and warm with my family.
  28.  medical insurance.  So many fellow  citizens are without or cannot afford  the level of insurance they need.
  29. And for a wonderfully supportive husband. Love you schmoopie.

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New job. New office.

I am extremely grateful to my Niagara Falls PL Trustees.  Not only am I grateful for beginning my new employment as the Executive Director of the Niagara Falls Public Library,  but of the many opportunities and professional challenges which will allow me to grow.    Above all,  I am grateful for the new office they have outfited for me.

After 40 years of being untouched,  the Board has approved the purchase of new window coverings, new carpeting and new furniture for the administration area of the library.

I am very pleased to have the good fortune to work with Jerry and Kathryn of Buffalo Office Interiors and to benefit from their creative talent and eye for color.  I would highly recommend working with Jerry and Kathryn as that they truly listened to what I had asked for, offered up creative solutions and created a very workable space for me and my staff.

The new Executive Director office will  feature a stand up desk,  comfortable seating area,  sufficient storage to meet my needs, lighting with a USB charge port and  a solid wood conference table with a live edge ( I so was hoping for this.)  Ultimately,  Jerry and Kathryn created a very useable and versatile space to further library business.

And yes, I cried when the  wooden slab top of the conference table was carried in.  I cannot imagine a more stellar piece of acacia to add a live zen quality to my new office.  Selecting the fabrics and finishes from color samples was the fun part.  I believe that with Jerry’s professional guidance , we have  found pieces which are soothing and calm in appearance, yet compliment the building’s mid-century Brutalist style.  Additionally, a few pieces of art from our Local History collection have been added to  pay homage to our  Niagara Falls area.

The before…….


The during……

And the after….

Additionally, all library admin offices  were freshened up with new carpeting and window treatments.  Files sorted and archived.  Goodbye faded orange broadloom! Hello vibrant and soothing green carpeting.  Welcome to a more inviting space to conduct library business.

And Jeff the Moose approves of his new landing spot on my stunning acacia wood live edge table. Who wouldn’t?

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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.

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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.

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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.