Category Archives: Adult Services Blog

Library Advocacy Day 2015

By Alex Andrasik, Adult Services Librarian

On February 25, representatives of the Southern Tier Library System traveled to Albany for Library Advocacy Day, an annual opportunity for library staff, board members, friends and constituents to meet with legislators and make the case for state support to libraries.  The main legislative goal of the event is to achieve full state aid funding, which is currently languishing at 1997 levels despite state education law requiring a much higher commitment.  Other specific issues raised this year by the group, led by STLS Executive Director Brian Hildreth, included increased aid for library building projects, extending broadband service to communities in the STLS service area, and augmenting the 2% cap on tax funding increases that we’re currently limited to.  I accompanied the group to represent Penn Yan in the halls of the capitol, along with Library Friend Susan McGill.


Each of the lawmakers that the group met seemed sympathetic to our cause and listened with interest to our points.  Some pointed to immediate action that they could take on behalf of libraries, such as raising our concerns with the relevant committee chairs and working across the aisle to make change happen.  Others pointed to the recent circumstances holding up the state budget process, such as the passing of former governor Mario Cuomo; while that important legislation remains in limbo, elected officials can offer few specifics about the ultimate shape of library aid funding.


The legislators shared our reason to be guardedly optimistic, however: the process last year saw the governor’s proposed cut to library aid raised to parity with the previous year’s budget.  Judging by that precedent, there is hope that this year could see a slight increase in aid.


One sentiment was shared by all the lawmakers we met: they were impressed by the size of our group and the way it represented a wide swath of central New York.  At about fifteen members strong, we did seem to be one of the larger groups present, at least as far as I could see.  Sue and I joked that next year we should get more Penn Yan-area folks to swell the group’s numbers even more.  I think she helped make an extra impression, providing each legislator with a copy of a recent Finger Lakes Times article that makes a nice mention of our library, underscoring what a busy and vital part of the community we are.  You can’t ask for a better tool to demonstrate the value of libraries!


It was a great experience for me, as a young librarian, to observe some of the ‘higher-level’ concerns of the profession; it’s all too easy, if natural, to get mired down in the day-to-day affairs of your own library and lose sight of what’s going on with the broader scene.  It’s important to remember that the issues we raised will have a direct impact on our operations in Penn Yan and everywhere else in the system–in the funding to support materials and programming budgets, in the ease and speed with which patrons can access the Internet, and in the money needed to repair and add to our physical stock of library buildings.  I came away from the day with a greater understanding of how we get the funding to address all of that, and how perilously close we are to losing it every year.  But I also came away with an understanding of how the dedication and passion of library advocates can turn the tide, year by year.


I’d like to express my appreciation to Senators Catharine Young and Thomas O’Mara and Assemblymen Christopher Friend, Joseph Giglio and Phil Palmesano for meeting with us.  Big thanks as well to the tireless Brian Hildreth for leading the charge (and most of the discussions!).  It was a great first time for me and I look forward to attending Library Advocacy Day for years to come.


The Programming Challenge

By Alex Andrasik, Adult Services Librarian


I love programming for the library.  I’d say it’s my favorite part of the job.  There’s nothing like looking at a fresh, unspoiled calendar page and filling it up with events, classes, concerts, presentations and more, all aimed at catching the interest of you, our library patrons and community members.  We do it to teach you.  To inform you.  To entertain you.  Hopefully there’s a little bit of something for everyone, and even if you haven’t attended a library program in a while, I hope you’re pleased with the knowledge that we keep trying new things, keep bringing back successful things, and are doing our best to serve your needs.


There’s only one problem.  It’s really hard.


I don’t mean it’s hard in a “I don’t feel like doing this right now” kind of way (although, admittedly, that is the case sometimes).  It’s actually a really tough skill to master.  Anyone who has ever dabbled in event planning will know this to be true.  There’s a certain headspace you have to get into in order to look beyond the pressing concerns of this week, right now, and start considering the shape of things a month or two or six ahead.  Then there’s the constant need for ideas, and the fact that those ideas don’t always work when you sit down to hash out the details.  And actually pulling together the necessary materials and people, at the date and time advertised, in front of a crowd of people can be an exercise in humility—especially when technology breaks down, or material you thought would last an hour only takes up 30 minutes, or, or, or…


It’s no wonder that I’m about to ask you to take over for me.


I exaggerate, of course.  Adult programming at the Penn Yan Public Library will remain primarily my responsibility, just as youth programming will remain the province of my esteemed colleague Sarah.  But I really do have pure motives for inviting you, the community at large, to participate in the process of planning events.


One of my job-related ideals is that the library should be the natural crossroads of the community it resides in.  The library is—or should be—the place where ideas are born, meet, and evolve.  And ideas can’t get very far without people, so naturally, the people belong in the library first and foremost.


Of course, you are here—I see you every day!  Checking out books, browsing DVDs, using the computers, attending our (lovingly conceived) programs.  But I hope you won’t call me selfish if I invite you to do more.  I want you to bring more programs to the library.


Everyone’s an expert at something, or a master of some craft, or an armchair authority in some discipline.  Your expertise might stem from your job.  Your mastery might come from a passionate hobby.  Whatever the source of your power, why not share it with the world?  Why not call me up, or email me, and say, “Alex, help me plan an event to help everyone else love this one thing as much as I do”?


We already have some patrons and community members who share with us this way.  Mary Beth Gamba’s excellent “Classics in Religion” series is one popular example.  Our dedicated Library Friends are often involved in programming.  Our weekly knitting group wouldn’t amount to much without the crafters who come back time after time.  Among others.


But I feel that we’d have even more going on in this line if folks knew they were welcome to propose their own program, group gathering, class or event.  After all, how do you know you’re welcome to do something unless you’ve been invited?  So consider this your invitation.  Show us what you’ve got.


I can’t promise every single one of you a spot on the calendar.  There are only so many days in a year, after all.  But I can promise to listen to your ideas, and help develop them where I can.  And maybe together, we can make Penn Yan’s crossroads bustle a little busier.


Have an idea you’d like to pitch me?  Send me an email at, or call the library and ask for Alex.

Bridges out of Poverty: Understanding, Acceptance

By Alex Andrasik, Adult Services Librarian


Youth Services Librarian Sarah and I recently attended a seminar at the Pioneer Library System facilitated by the stupendous Prudence Pease, an aha! Process Bridges Out of Poverty educator and the self-proclaimed “most controversial judge in Vermont.”  Her topic?  Poverty—its causes, its costs, and the insidious way it can thread through a life, influencing everything from your decision-making to your storytelling.  And it’s a two-edged blade, because for all that poverty puts people at a disadvantage in so many ways, she says that it also prepares them to be more self-reliant, pragmatic, community-minded, and creative in their problem solving.


It was a fascinating take on the subject, and one that I never considered, looking at it from my privileged position.  People who have experienced poverty have a set of skills that I, with my middle-class background, will probably never be an expert at.


But we can’t underestimate the negative impact that poverty has on those who are living it, and even on those who lived it in the past and found their way out.  One of the most striking examples that Ms. Pease gave of the way life just doesn’t flow the same way for these folks is the simple chore of laundry.  For many of us, it’s as simple as throwing in a load and going about our day.


But imagine you’re a single parent of two kids, with no at-home washer-dryer, no car, and a Laundromat at least ten minutes away.  Now the process becomes a near-Herculean task—and you can’t just do the dishes, neaten the living room or (heaven forbid) relax with a book while you’re wrangling all those moving parts.


People in these circumstances experience the tasks that I take for granted in a very different way, and according to Ms. Pease, ordinary chores like this can take up to five times longer for people living in poverty.  Where is someone to find the time to attend classes, give their job search the attention it needs, or take a moment to read to their kids?


These luxuries are still possible—no one suggests otherwise—but they are undeniably more difficult to attain.


That’s why we should look on all our fellow community members not with tolerance—a well-meaning word that often disguises disdain or annoyance—but with acceptance.  Ms. Pease advised the librarians in attendance at her program that she doesn’t expect anyone to like every action someone takes, but we have to at least try to understand why they took that action.  That’s the doorway to acceptance, and through it, maybe some mutually beneficial dialogue.


To learn more about aha! Process and Bridges out of Poverty, click here.

Because I’m Appy, ep. 1: The Four C’s

Hi! I’m Alex, the new Adult Services Librarian here at PYPL.  I’d like to use this blog space as a way of talking to you, our library public, on topics of interest that you might be a little leery about.  You know—tech that seems intimidating or extraneous; certain types of literature that you might have dismissed without a thought; and games, genres, media and more that might never have crossed your mind before.  What’s my point?  That every one of those things reflects human creativity and, what’s more, is useful to someone, somewhere—maybe even to you.


So I’m inaugurating this effort with the first in a series discussing apps—that newest, potentially most overwhelming of computer thingamajig.  My apologies to anyone who now has that Pharrell Williams song stuck in their heads!   What is an app, exactly?  Well, it’s short for “application”—as in “computer application.”  That just means it’s a computer program, like Microsoft Word.  The trendy, shortened version has come to apply mainly to programs you use on your mobile devices—phones, tablets, brain chip, etc.  (Just kidding about that last one. Or am I?)  Apps tend to be small in computer-space and extremely focused in use—they have very particular applications, you might even say.  (See what I did there?)


I recently attended a great webinar hosted by Nicole Hennig, a real expert in this emerging area of study, called “Apps for Librarians: Digital Literacy with Mobile Apps,” that described a lot of what she calls “core apps” and the ways librarians can use them to enhance services to their patrons.  She’s really knowledgeable and clear, and while I had long intended to kick off this blog with a discussion of apps, her presentation inspired me to organize it slightly differently.  I was going to just jump into some reviews of apps and why you should use them, but Ms. Hennig’s method of categorizing apps into four major types struck me as a better means of approaching this whole, vast topic.   So, how does she split up the world of apps?  She talks about apps for consuming, for curating, for creation and for collaboration.


Consuming apps are pretty straightforward.  They know that there is stuff out there to be read, watched, heard, and so on, and give you ways to do so.  They tend to gather that kind of material up and present it to you in easy-to-digest formats.  E-reading apps like the Kindle app would fall under this category, as would ‘magazine’ and ‘feed’ types like Feedly and Flipboard.


Apps for curation start to give the user a little more power.  In these apps, the content is still out there waiting to be consumed, but they allow you to collect, organize, and present it in your own way.  This can include big names like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, though there are a lot more out there.  You can also curate your own content with apps like Buffer, which allow you to schedule your social media posts throughout the day.  (Because you wouldn’t want your kids to go a half an hour without an update from you!)


Creation apps—this is where things start to get really interesting.  These guys know that the Force is in you, Luke.  Whatever you want to create—prose, poetry, drawings, photography, even music and 3D models—there’s an app for that.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re a maestro or a rookie, because there are creative apps for every skill level.  Heck, some of the apps used by digital virtuosos are equally accessible to novices.  Some big names here are Adobe Ideas, Diptic, and the very cool music-making app, Thumb Jam.


Finally, we have collaboration apps, which bring it all together.  Whatever you may do on your own in the other three categories, there’s most likely an app that allows you to do it in a group.  Often they’re the very same apps.  (You’ll find that there’s a lot of overlap between these categories.)   Scribble on whiteboards with SyncSpace, share files with Dropbox, and play a game of multidimensional tag over Skype.  (No, I’m not sure exactly how that would work, but it would be fun to figure out.  Laser pointers?)


Ms. Hennig covered a lot of other interesting elements of the app revolution, but the other important one for all of you out there is the concept of content ecosystems—in other words, the idea that the things you create on apps can be synced up across all your devices, allowing you to travel freely between your phone, tablet, and computer(s) without losing anything.


It’s also worth mentioning that apps have incredibly positive implications for accessibility—a lot of them have features built-in to assist people in using them, and there are many that are designed precisely to help people better navigate the world.  There are apps that identify currency for the blind and that help disabled teens learn.  That sounds like a revolution worth supporting, right?


So that’s that for our first foray into the realm of apps.  Check back in the future when I dig into some specific reviews and recommendations. Thanks again to Nicole Hennig for her awesome presentation (you can check out more about her here).  I hope you’ll join me in exploring these and other amazing curious on the media and literacy landscape.  And get in touch if any of this has struck your fancy and you’re itching for app-based library programs!