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.

More funding, Mr. Cuomo.

library interior

A  recently released Siena College Research Institute poll conducted the week of January 11th found that local public library usage is up 10% throughout New York state over the last three years, with usage by young women and communities of color up nearly 15%, and up nearly 20% among those households making less than $50,000 annually. This surge in usage, along with the findings detailed below, confirm that traditionally underrepresented communities are increasingly reliant on the resources provided by their local public library, and library funding must be viewed as an equality issue.The Siena poll findings include:

  1. Library usage is up 10% statewide, 15% among women respondents aged 18-34, nearly 15% among African-American respondents, 15% among Latino respondents, and among all income demographics, with usage up 20% for those households making less than $50,000 annually;
  2. A clear majority of respondents want increased library funding, with nearly 45% advocating for library aid to increase in proportion with overall education funding, and 30% saying library aid should be fully funded under the law;
  3. For nearly 33% of African-American and Latino respondents, and 25% of households making less than $50,000 annually, the public library is their primary source of internet access;
  4. Of the respondents who have used their local public library for job seeking or career building programs in the last six months, 53% were African-American, and 40% were households making less than $50,000 annually;
  5. 94% of respondents said public libraries are “very” or “somewhat” important to our state’s educational infrastructure, while more than 80% of women, African-Americans, Latinos, and households making less than $50,000 say public libraries are “very important” to our educational system.

Library funding is nearly 20% less than what is mandated in state Education Law, and is currently at 1997 levels. In last year’s Executive Budget, library aid was cut by 4.7%, while proposed education aid was increased 3.8%. Total education spending in last year’s enacted budget increased 5.7%, but library aid increased only 1.2%.

Mr. Cuomo, what say you?grumpycatproved wrong

cited from

Bamboo library cards…or what the cool pandas are using these days…..

A shout out to  San Rafael Public Library of California for their forward thinking.  Starting July 1st, 2014 , counter staff will begin offering bamboo library cards to library users. During the entire month of July 2014 you can replace your old plastic card with a new, gorgeous bamboo library card for free! All new cards issued July 1 onward will also be bamboo instead of plastic. bamboo card Partnering with Grovemade, a leading designer of handcrafted wooden and leather accessories,  the bamboo library cards were created to promote the City of San Rafael’s goals to create a greener environment through several initiatives, including changes in lifestyle, city operations, and construction. Made from renewable wood, the library cards are individually hand sanded and oiled. The cards are just as durable as the plastic cards.  (Rumor has it that it is panda approved.)


Looking for more info on Bamboo?  Check out the 584  or 633 shelf.  Or Pandas,  599.74 shelf.

Thank you, San Rafael for making  our planet a better place by  reducing plastic waste. Thank you,  Sarah Houghton, for our creative thinking.

What waits for librarians when they return from holidays.

After a much-needed week in the Green Mountains with my family and enjoying the beauty of Lake Champlain,  much waits me upon my return to my library.


My UPS delivery fellow,  Mr. Brown,  brought me 9 boxes of newly released books from Baker and Taylor , as well as a number of new talking books on CD from Micro Marketing. Then, there was the state of my desk and the mail which arrived during my time away.  Composing  the annual report. Finalizing the Fall newsletter for publication. Drafting  the Board of Trustees annual fundraising letter.  Preparing for meetings. Negotiating contracts.  The life of a library director never stops. However, it was delightful to have a short break and rejuvenate myself.

What librarians do on when on holiday…..

What do librarians do when they are on holiday? I will confirm that it involves coffee with local dairy creamer, comfy flip-flops,  a pile of library books to get caught up on, a few periodicals and a breath-taking  westward view of  Lake Champlain and the  Adirondack Mountain range. Life is good. Truly. librarianholiday2014 And there might have been a visit to a local library……….the second busiest municipal library in the state and staffed by  some of the most friendliest Vermonters  you will ever meet.
kellog Hubbardlibkelloghubbardlibchildren'sroom  Happy summer to all.     Keep reading and may all your hooked  bass fish  be large.

Look what came in the mail for me!

While it has been a topsie turvy ride as of late for the Potwin crew, we can safely say that we have landed and are finding our footing.

Thank you to the many people who have so warmly welcomed me as well as my family.

Today, the postman brought a very lovely, official note.

How delightful!

#Lagrangeassociationlibrary #terrygipson #warmwelcome #lagrangenewyork

Name changed…still same old’ me….


We have mooooooved.

From sandy Florida beaches to the less humid, rolling hills area of the Hudson Valley in New York state, the Potwins have made tracks.

If there is anything which grinds my gears more, it is the notion of boxes and my belongings not in their place nor easily accessible.


My beloved cookbooks out of order.

Double augh.

Shortly, you will notice a change in the masthead of my blog from Falcon Library blog to Spot the Empire Librarian blog. The reason is a sad and exciting all wrapped into one. I have moved. My career promotion from school librarian to municipal library director has resulted in a 7 state distance move. A move which will bring us closer to my Canuck relatives, to ample outdoor recreation opportunities and (finally!) to a quality school district for my son.

Good bye to my friends in Florida and specifically SSES. I will miss you after nine years of cheering on your reading successes. Please keep reading and being the most confident readers you can be.

My only hope is that nothing is broken from our move…though one box has a mysterious rattle to it.

Oh dear.

What do you thing of the new name? Suggestions? Vote on a better one?

Why hello LaGrange, my new friends, and re acquaintances in New York State. I am looking forward to working my magic and fostering a warm literary aspect to our community. I have met so many warm and welcoming people. The staff at the LaGrange Association Library can be described as friendly , knowledgeable, helpful and inviting among their many qualities. Please feel free to stop in to visit, express your concerns and voice your options. There is not a right or a wrong way, only a much sought out best and favorable way for our town.

I look forward to meeting many citizens, either in person, electronically on the LaGrange Association Library’s Facebook page, by email at Interested in programming or specific issues? Pick up the telly and call me at 845-452-3141

It has truly been my pleasure to serve the students and families of SSES. I look forward to my future tenure with the town  and constituents of LaGrange, New York.fallbreath

Pumpkin decorating – leaf peeping – apple picking afternoon anyone? I so love Fall in the North.