All things NFPL and US Census…and Election Day voting…

A report of Niagara Falls Public Library  ( both Main and Lasale Branch) services.  Our buildings have been open since July 1,  yet our curbside pickup, telephone reference, and virtual programming have been offered to our patrons since March 16th. We are two of 12 libraries in New York state which remained operable,  with safety in mind.

We are working with the US Census Bureau to help ensure that all citizens in Niagara county are counted.  This count effects federal funding which impacts our schools, hospitals, libraries, and the building of infrastructures like roads and bridges.  Our population distribution is reflected by our representation in the US  Congress.  it is vital that all citizens be counted.  Thank you to the US Census and Nioga Library System for funding 4 laptops dedicated to the task of collecting census information.

On November 3, the main library, at 1425 Main Street, will be a polling place.   We ask that all who enter please wear either a surgical mask or a fabric face covering and take a squirt of hand sanitizer upon entering to help stop the spread of germs.

Need help registering for an absentee ballot? Give us a call and we can talk you through the online process.  The deadline in New York state to request absentee ballots is September 18th.

Need help finding your polling place?

The Niagara County Board of Elections, under the voter info tab on their website, will inform you of where you need to go to vote based on your home address.  If you have internet issues, please reach out and we will help you locate your polling spot or registering for an absentee ballot.

If you are one of the 17% of our NF City population without internet,  know that you can access our WiFi signals from outside both our buildings 24 hours / 7 days per week.

Feeling uncomfortable about coming in our buildings. Know that we are diligently cleaning and sanitizing.  You can call or email us your request. We will pull it from the shelves and bag it up, ready for your pick up by the front doors. Virtual programming continues via our website, Facebook channels.

Reach out. Your NFPL is here for you.

716-286-4894 (Main)

716-283-8309 (Lasalle) – our email


To Niagara Falls with love……

I give you 2019, Niagara Falls Public Library Community Annual report.  This past 6 months has been a true marathon.  Between navigating the COVID-19  protocols, keeping library staff employed, continuing library services to our community with an executive order closed building,  so many other projects kept running in the background.   Hosting a visit by our Library Architects in July,  completing the annual audit of the library’s finances (remote) without accountants, hosting a 30-day visit by 4 archivists from  Maryland to catalog our local history collection,  deep cleaning the buildings, prepping the FY 2020 budget negotiations with  City Hall, hiring two Library Trainees,  installation of 17 new additional outside cameras at Main building.   To see the community annual report come off the press feels comforting; it is an excuse to stop and reflect on past accomplishments.    I am particularly proud of my staff for their efforts and creativity to make the library hum along. Hard copies are available for pick up at each branch as well as electronically via our website.

One our most famous Gee-Gees.

It is no secret that I am very proud to be a Gee-Gee.   While most schools have mascots that are animals; lions, and tigers and bears ( oh my!) or are named after historic civilizations of peoples such as Vikings or  (Roman) Senators,  the University of Ottawa school spirit is tied to being a Gee-Gee.  (Am leaving the Washington Red Skins discussion, aside.) Now there are two schools of thought which reference this name.  One is that it is a reference to horse racing.  In the UK is slang for betting on a winning horse at the horse track.  In Greek and Roman times,  it was referenced as the lead horse in a chariot race.  The other school of thought is that the University of Ottawa’s school colors are ‘garnet and grey’   both hues begin with the letter “g”.

Take your pick,   though as all alumni, we are proud of our school and our school’s academic reputation.  Currently, it is undertaking a number of innovative programs in the fields of biotechnology,  engineering, social sciences. I am proud that it has reintroduced its school of library sciences with a  focus on government documents and technology.  My undergraduate certificate proudly hangs in my office, as a testimony to my achievement and shared pride.

This achievement and pride is shared by another, and more famous, alumni, Mr, Alex Trebek, BA ‘1961 is a proud Gee Gee.  While his accomplishments are immeasurable,  he has graciously given back to the U  of O with a gift totaling 10 million dollars.    Today, his new auto biography was released and I am eagerly devouring it.  While Mr. Trebek is well-known as the host of the long-running tv game show Jeopardy,  he is a very inquisitive fellow who values the potential of education and becoming an innovative leader.  Hence his generous donation to the university to future promote dialogue to form public policy to benefit all Canadians.

The funds will support projects by 12 research institutes and centers working on complex problems facing Canada and the world, such as how to transition to a green economy, prepare for aging societies and build inclusive and durable democracies. New postdoctoral fellows or research associates, known as “Trebek Scholars” will help drive progress on these important issues.

As a fellow Gee-Gee,  I say thank you.   Your gift, your leadership and your thirst for knowledge have been inspirational.   You are definitively a lead in our chariot.


Moving on….moving up.

Since all Niagara Falls City-owned buildings opened up to public visitation on July 1,  both Main and Lasalle Library branches began welcoming our citizens back into the buildings.   We have continued the wildly popular curbside pick up service. Programming continues to be virtual or pick up kits.  Reference is offered via telephone or email.

To promote safety and hamper the spread of this nasty COIVD 19 disease,  the building is open with a number of restrictions. and expected behaviors by staff and patrons alike.  Hand sanitizer, hand washing, nitrate gloves,  facial coverings, minimizing high touch exchanges, enforcing social distancing.  While we are welcoming patrons back into the building,  we are embracing a grab and go mentality with minimal lingering in the buildings.

Above all,  we continue to plan for the future of the Niagara Falls Public Library.  This week, we hosted library architects Paul and Lisa Mays of Ballston Spa, New York.  Both have extensive knowledge of library construction processes,  building grants, and community service needs.   A new edifice is the end goal of a number of coordinated projects:  a community annual report, community newsletter, new logo, dedicated funding, a comprehensive inventory of our local history collection, a full-on weed of outdated materials from the circulating collection and a strategic plan.

Paul Mays is an architect and principal of Butler Rowland Mays Architects,LLP of Ballston Spa, NY, a Northeast firm specializing in Library Design. Awards have included the Saugerties Public Library (additions and major renovations to a 1915 Carnegie Building) the Cairo Public Library (new construction), the Moffat Library of Washingtonville (additions and major renovations to an 1880’s building), and the Highland Public Library (new
construction), institutions that each won the New York Library Association Building of the Year Awards in 2012, 2013, 2018, and 2019, respectively. Moffat also won the Orange County Citizens Foundation Placemaking Award in 2018. The firm’s Albert Wisner Public Library, in Warwick, NY, won the Library Journal’s national award for “The Best Small Town Library in America” in 2016. Mr. Mays served on the Board of Trustees for his hometown Greenwich Free Library for twelve years, including four as president. Paul then served on the Board of Trustees of the Southern Adirondack Library System for another twelve years, and currently as the Architect for the Architecture and Building Commission of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.

Lisa is the Senior Architect at Butler Rowland Mays Architects and has over twenty-five years of experience designing libraries. She currently serves as an officer of the Friends of the Library of the Greenwich Free Library, and as a Board member of Community Work and Independence, Inc., an advocacy and support provider serving adults with developmental disabilities. An outgrowth of the firm’s specialty in Library work includes extensive experience with Historic Preservation and Renovation projects, Public Space Planning for Sustainability, Building Forensics, and Community Consensus-Building.

During their three day visit,  a brief overview of possible library sites was discussed with the end goal of moving towards a more comprehensive community master plan in our future.   I am proud of my library board for planning for the future and being open to new ideas.


Niagara Falls Public Library service update, 6.23.2020

Coming to you live, from the jail cells…wait…what?  Yes,  our LaSalle branch of the Niagara Falls Public Library has a room of 4 jail cells.  The building, built-in 1924, originally housed the Town offices and Police Services of the Lasalle community.  Approx 51 years ago,  Lasalle was annexed as part of the City of Niagara Falls. Under the annexation agreement, we must maintain a library in the Lasalle are and thus utilize the colonial-styled, 12 000 square foot building on   Buffalo Ave and 87th street.

As part of the history of the area,  we have maintained the jail cells.   A few years ago,   the film Marshall, starring  Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson was filmed here.  Several scenes, including jail cells and a few of our study rooms doubled as law office scenes for the film. If you visit our library today,  we have retained the lettering on the frosted glass doors and the ‘gritty’ paint job in the cell area.

Library services have remained available since March 19,  while the buildings are closed. All city buildings, of which the library is one,  were directed to close based on Executive Order of the Mayor as directed by the Governor.   Please call or email us the title of items you would like. We will pull them from our shelves, sign out and bag them up for you to called tat te front door. Please designate which location you would like to pick up.

Please return your items via the book drops. All items will be quarantined for 72 hours, then wiped with hydrogen peroxide before being signed in.  No fines will accumulate at this time.  Contact us at

Main 716 286-4892    M -F  9 am – noon

Lasalle  716 283- 8309    M -F   10 am -1pm

or email either library at

Check out our library web page with many valuable and culturally rich content. Click on COVID page where you will find information about the Summer Reading Program “Page Turners’, videos of librarians sharing their musical talents, craft demos, and children’s storytimes.  You will also find links to community services such as Feedmore WNY, Department of Labor, SNAP benefits, Department of Health etc. Our librarians have created tips on ZOOM meetings, puzzles of our Local History artifacts, as well as a resource of educational and fun links to help you keep children busy (i.e. local aquarium virtual tours).

Finally, we are grateful to the Niagara Falls Heritage Area for its financial support of our local history inventory project.   For the next three weeks, we will host four archivists to conduct Phase 2 of our inventory project.  The purpose of this project is to identify what we have in the local history collection, catalog it, identify storage and insurance needs.  This effort is part of a greater effort to identify a necessary footprint for a new building, should the library move to another location.

The other project which wrapped up is the installation of a new security camera technology system at our Main branch.

We cannot wait to see our citizens in the library buildings again.   Furniture has been moved,  all shelves sanitized, sneeze guards installed, safety protocols in place to keep staffa and visitors safe.  Once we received word from our City Hall, the building will be opened. Until then,  reach out to us with your reference questions and items requests. We are here to help.

Stay well and be kind.

Archivists descend upon the Niagara Falls Public Library

Archival contractors from the History Associates team (Rockville, Maryland) have been working on Phase Two of our local history inventory project, giving us a more accurate record of our local history holdings here at Niagara Falls Public Library. The goal of all four phases is to address preservation, storage issues and make materials more accessible to the community now and for future generations! Funding generously provided by the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area and the Dunlap Trust. We hope to complete future phases of materials as more funding becomes available. Week one done, two more to go.


D61BF81C-A7C6-4EE8-95F3-139804B0723CWith so much happening during this COVID-19 crisis, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed. It is difficult to make decisions. It is difficult to find information to make those decisions.  So many around me are dealing with stress and anxiety.   Being in a management position during this crisis is a testament to one’s leadership skills.

Surprisingly, I felt a wave of accomplishment wash over me today.   Our counter sneeze guards, ordered mid-April, arrived today.   Seeing a demo guard on the main library counter felt very comforting and gave me a sense that I am in control fo the situation, not that it was controlling me. It is the first time in 15 weeks that I have felt on top of things, that I had a handle on the Niagara Falls Public Library ‘s  COIVD response.   It is shocking that something so simple as a piece of plexiglass and metal could be so meaningful, almost emotional.  Ron Burgandy,  of Anchorman movie fame,  captured it correctly, I am trapped in a glass case of emotion.  (In a good way.)

Trapped in a glass case of emotion

African American Literature Book List

The Common Platform paper in response to the draft Racial Equality ...

Reading is the one of the best ways to learn how and why things happen in the world. Considering the turmoil and tragedy that our country is facing, the Niagara Falls Public Library has compiled a list of book titles about the African-American experience. Black Americans have a rich and varied history in this country – and storytelling has always been a tradition in black communities around the world. From the immigrant experiences of Haiti and the West Indies, to the New York Times 1619 Project, these books of literature, poetry and history can give insight on how we all got here. Each of the following items can be checked out from the Niagara Falls Public Library by visiting

Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib 

A Fortune for Your Disaster by Hanif Abdurraqib 

Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln by Edward Aschorn 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin 

Full Dissidence: notes from an uneven playing field by Howard Bryant 

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass 

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois 

Jay-Z: Made in America by Michael Eric Dyson 

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, white supremacy, and the rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates Jr. 

Talking to Strangers: what we should know about the people we don’t know by Malcolm Gladwell 

Conversations in black: on power, politics, and leadership by Ed Gordon 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X 

Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison 

Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton 

Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and The Promise of America by Karine Jean-Pierre 

Busted in New York and other essays by Darryl Pinckney 

The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley edited by and with an introduction by Vincent Caretta 

Love Big: the power of revolutionary relationships to heal the world by Rozella Haydee White 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead 

Native Son by Richard Wright

Other Resources

  • Talking to Children Authentically about Race and Racism (PBS Kids for Parents) –  A conversation featuring fellow parents, educators and child development and trauma experts about how you can talk with young children about racial injustice and violence against Black people.
  • Reading for Racial Justice (University of Minnesota) – To promote understanding and action for change, the University of Minnesota Press has made a collection of anti-racist ebooks available to read online for free through August 31.
  • “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism” (CNN/Sesame Street) – A town hall for kids and families to give kids and parents “an opportunity to explore the current moment the nation is living through and to understand how these issues affect people.”
  • The Conscious Kid – An education, research and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth.
  • Resources on Race (Saint Paul Public Library) – Books, poems, articles, films, blog posts, and other resources exploring race in the United States.
  • Antiracism: A Starter Booklist (LibraryJournal)– 11 titles, a mix of history, social science, and memoir, that offer facts and reflections on systemic racial injustice as well as ways to channel feeling into action.

****Thank you, Richard, Librarian 1 , Niagara Falls Public Library

Working towards an invincible summer

How did it happen that a meme of a screaming gopher sum up the events of 2020, so far?

So, not to be cavalier, but how is your spring and summer going so far?

There is no denying it, the past 14 weeks have been somewhat difficult in ways I could not have imagined.   The COVID -19 virus has presented all-encompassing challenges — and there is no one in this country who has who hasn’t been affected in some way, shape, or form. Chez Potwin, my home, in a city that is a world-class tourist mecca,  has become a ghost town.  Hotels are vacant. Restaurants are closed.  Tourist parking areas are absent of cars. It has gone quiet with the exception of an occasional ambulance siren.

In the grand scheme of things, my hardships have not really been hard at all.  For starters, I and my family have had many of our basic needs met; we have food,   a cozy home,  power and internet, and  employment.  Upon reflection, I have time with my family that I normally do not have.  It is far from being a seamless life,  yet, I have time with my son to help with his online school lessons, time with my husband to connect.   I have found the opportunity to call my Mummy and Auntie on a daily basis, not a weekly basis. I have written letters to friends with whom I have only quickly jotted an email. I have worked on my Christmas cards….( please don’t hate).  I have made a point of reading the newspaper cover to cover on a frequent basis.  I have had time to catch up on much-needed sleep with luxurious afternoon naps and baked recipes with my son that I have been meaning to try.  The decadence of time has not gone unnoticed.

I am grateful to still be employed.  While many libraries in New York State have closed,  the Niagara Falls Public Library was one of the few municipal libraries which stayed open during the quarantine period.  As of March 27, 2020, of the 1,012  municipal library services (such as association libraries, reading rooms,  district libraries )  in New York State,  only 12 remained open for services with closed buildings.  Two of these libraries were the Main Branch as well as the Lasalle Branch of the Niagara Falls Public Library, servicing  310 000 residents of the Nioga Library System ( Niagara, Genesse, and Orleans Counties).  Why you ask?    The NFPL has zero employees, myself included.  However,  the NFPL has 36 City employees who perform their job duties for the NFPL.  Under Gov Cuomo’s proclamation,  municipal leadership qualifies as ‘essential workers’.  All 584 NF City employees remained on the job, with rotating work schedules to abide by the 50% workforce rule. By no means are we on par with the nursing and medical front line workers (thank you, medical professionals, for your selfless duty).  NFPL staff practiced social distancing by some employees going home to perform their tasks (virtual programming, creation of a COVID webpage to help citizens), others who felt comfortable stayed in our closed buildings to wash shelves, pull requested items from our shelves and bag them up for curbside pick up by patrons.  Staff was in the buildings for 3 hours each morning since March 14 to handle online reference and telephone calls.  Myself, I worked in the building in the morning, yet came home in the afternoon to continue working.  Payroll still needs to happen, Zoom board meetings still need to be planned, yearly audits need to be performed, grants closure deadlines need to be met.  The work really does not stop.

Today, work involved preparing our Main building for potential demonstrations down the street from our NF Police Department. So far, the protests have been calm and peaceful.  I must commend our NF  leadership, our municipal government, and the Police Department for listening to protester’s concerns and taking a  collective knee.  I think we all share the same goal of respect and of being heard through nonviolent means. I am grateful that our city ‘s protests have been peaceful and without looting and violence.   It has given us all the opportunity to rethink how we relate to others, how we treat others, of the need to be civil and kind. In a COVID world from which we are emerging,   societal and racial unrest seem to create further challenges to allow us to rebound.

However, it is a pleasure not to have places to go, other than work in the morning.  It has given me a pause to focus on more immediate things in my life, such as time with my family, to revel in small things such as connecting with friends. It has also given me the opportunity to better appreciate what I am missing: regular hair cuts, being able to enter a bank without an appointment, sitting in my favorite local restaurant.

Make no mistake, I look forward to seeing all my library co-workers back in the building.

When it is all over — and it will be over — I don’t want to go back to what normal was.  Our new normal will never be normal we previously knew.  I want to re-emerge better,  and with resolve to take time for the people in my life and meaningful experiences.  I want to be part of a kinder and more civil society. If I have learned anything, it is the importance of looking out for one another, and knowing that the comforts of our home and the company’s other loved ones are more than enough.

Stay healthy.