To begin our series highlighting library resources addressing topics of crisis, we present a collection of books and podcasts on the topic of abortion. The descriptive text below is all from the publishers, edited for length. All of the titles below are available through the North Country Library System, and most of these are on the shelf at the Potsdam Public Library.

Medical and Counseling Resources

Planned Parenthood Learning Resource Page

All-Options Hotline: All-Options has a free confidential hotline to discuss decisions about a pregnancy.

Abortions Welcome: Abortions Welcome has written and interactive resources help with decisions about pregnancy, including a compassionate clergy counseling line.

Reachout of St. Lawrence County: Reachout is a free crisis hotline that can help connect you with other community resources.


As women’s reproductive rights are increasingly under attack, a minister and ethicist weighs in on the abortion debate, offering a stirring argument that “the best arbiter of a woman’s reproductive destiny is herself” (Cecile Richards, former President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America). Trust Women skillfully interweaves political analysis, sociology, ancient and modern philosophy, Christian tradition, and medical history, and grounds its analysis in the material reality of women’s lives and their decisions about sexuality, abortion, and child-bearing.

Our bodies, ourselves

Hailed by The New York Times as a “feminist classic,” and “America’s bestselling book on women’s health,” the comprehensive guide to all aspects of women’s health and sexuality, including menopause, birth control, childbirth, sexual health, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental health and general well-being.

The girls who went away : the hidden history of women who surrendered children for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade

The astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the decades before Roe v. Wade.

In this deeply moving and myth-shattering work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the hidden social history of adoption before Roe v. Wade – and its lasting legacy.

Few Supreme Court decisions have stirred up as much controversy, vitriolic debate, and even violence as Roe v. Wade in 1973. Four decades later, it remains a touchstone for the culture wars in the United States and a pivot upon which much of our politics turns.

This book details the case’s historical background; highlights Roe v. Wade’s core issues, essential personalities, and key precedents; tracks the case’s path through the courts; clarifies the jurisprudence behind the Court’s ruling in Roe; assesses the impact of the presidential elections of George W. Bush and Barack Obama along with the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Sonia Sotomayor; and gauges the case’s impact on American society and subsequent challenges to it in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), and Gonzales v. Carhart (2007).

Despite her famous pseudonym, no one knows the truth about ‘Jane Roe,’ Norma McCorvey (1947-2017), whose unwanted pregnancy in 1970 opened a great fracture in American life. Journalist Joshua Prager spent years with Norma, discovered her personal papers, a previously unseen trove, and witnessed her final moments.

Bad feminist : essays

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched cultural observers of her generation

In these funny and insightful essays, Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Cosmic constitutional theory : why Americans are losing their inalienable right to self-governance

American constitutional law has undergone a transformation. Issues once left to the people have increasingly become the province of the courts. Subjects as diverse as abortion rights and firearms regulations, health care reform and counterterrorism efforts, not to mention a millennial presidential election, are more and more the domain of judges. Wilkinson argues they will slowly erode the role of representative institutions in America and leave our children bereft of democratic liberty.

The Choices we made : 25 women and men speak out about abortion

Every day in America, abortion providers and the women who need them are in danger. First published ten years ago, this collection of 25 powerful stories from contributors both famous and ordinary, privileged and poor, provides often harrowing insights into what happens when women are denied the right to choose. Testimonials from teenagers, college students, overloaded young mothers, and even a retired male Marine put a human face on one of this country’s most controversial issues and offer passionate arguments for access to legal and safe abortions.

Life’s work : from the trenches, a moral argument for choice

In this “vivid and companionable memoir of a remarkable life” (The New Yorker), an outspoken, Christian reproductive justice advocate and abortion provider reveals his personal and professional journeys in an effort to seize the moral high ground on the question of choice and reproductive justice. In Life’s Work, Dr. Willie Parker tells a deeply personal and thought-provoking narrative that illuminates the complex societal, political, religious, and personal realities of abortion in the United States from the unique perspective of someone who performs them and defends the right to do so every day.

My life on the road

Gloria Steinem–writer, activist, organizer, and inspiring leader–now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of her life as a traveler, a listener, and a catalyst for change.

When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. Taking to the road–by which I mean letting the road take you–changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories–in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.


In this striking, enormously affecting novel, Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of two very different and yet intimately linked American families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions himself as acting out God’s will when he assassinates an abortion provider in his small Ohio town while Augustus Voorhees, the idealistic but self-regarding doctor who is killed, leaves behind a wife and children scarred and embittered by grief.

In her moving, insightful portrait, Joyce Carol Oates fully inhabits the perspectives of two interwoven families whose destinies are defined by their warring convictions and squarely-but with great empathy-confronts an intractable, abiding rift in American society.

The handmaid’s tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.

A spark of light : a novel

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center–a women’s reproductive health services clinic–its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

The mothers : a novel

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance–and the subsequent cover-up–will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

Red clocks : a novel

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo.

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

Red Clocks is at once a riveting drama, whose mysteries unfold with magnetic energy, and a shattering novel of ideas. In the vein of Margaret Atwood and Eileen Myles, Leni Zumas fearlessly explores the contours of female experience, evoking The Handmaid’s Tale for a new millennium. This is a story of resilience, transformation, and hope in tumultuous — even frightening — times.

Poor your soul

This vivid memoir tells of an unexpected pregnancy, ultimately welcomed, then threatened by birth defects that preclude life outside the womb. Far more than her personal story of abortion, Ptacin’s brutally honest account incorporates her own mother’s tragic loss of a child. 

When she woke

Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan’s provocative new novel, When She Woke, tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed–their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes–and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder.

In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

Help Yourself

I hope that when you think about the library, you think about having fun; maybe nostalgic childhood memories of reading with a family member, discovering a great series to keep you entertained for a whole summer, or attending an inspiring workshop that sparks a new hobby. Maybe the library has been a place to escape to, a bright spot in an otherwise dark time, somewhere to be when you don’t know what to do with yourself.

A lot of what we do centers around entertainment, and recreational growth like learning crafts or outdoor skills, but what about when you’re experiencing a serious crisis that 350+ Crochet Tips will not mend? The Grumpy Gardener cannot dig you out of this one. What if you have nobody to confide in and have to help yourself? In this series I want to highlight some of the ways that the library can support you in times of crisis.

The library is a safe space, free of judgment. We welcome everyone, and celebrate diversity of every kind. Everyone who works at the library is here because we truly enjoy helping people. We’re also good at figuring things out, whether it’s how to use your ipad, how to sign up for healthcare, or where to find the forms to DIY your divorce.

Your privacy is protected at the library. Your parents, your spouse, your neighbor, your teachers, even the police, cannot access your library records without a court order. We actually can’t even tell you your own borrowing history because we do not keep that information, except for what’s currently checked out to you.

When you check out a book, a staff member will see what the book is, but we promise we don’t judge. Remember, WE bought all those books! We added them to the collection because we thought they should be here and that they should be checked out. Do you feel a little embarrassed buying tampons at the grocery store? I promise, the cashier doesn’t even think about it. Are you a grown woman reading YA fiction and comic books? Well, so are we. And as for the serious topics, our staff members have collectively been through a wide variety of hard times and have found some of the best help in books. We want that for you, too. Despite that, if you need an extra measure of anonymity, place your books on hold and then email info@potsdamlibrary.org and we will work out a solution that suits your needs.

Over the course of several posts, we’re going to highlight topics such as addiction, homelessness, poverty, discrimination, incarceration, child abuse, domestic abuse/violence, spiritual abuse, grief, depression and mental illness, suicide, medical issues, and legal issues. We’ll recommend a few books on those topics, and where applicable, we will link you to articles, podcasts, community services, etc.

In closing, here is a list of call numbers for “difficult topics” in our non-fiction section. Adult non-fiction is located upstairs.

Abortion ~ 363.46
Alzheimer’s ~ 616.831
Cancer ~ 616.994
HIV / AIDS ~ 616.9792
Infertility – 616.692 or 618.39
Miscarriage ~ 618.392
Pregnancy ~ 618.2
Puberty ~ 613.043 or 612.66
Sexual Health ~ 613 or 306.7
Bipolar Disorder ~ 616.895
Bullying ~ 303.69
Child Abuse ~ 362.76
Depression ~ 616.8527
Domestic Violence ~ 362.82
Loss of a Child ~ 155.9
Loss of a Parent ~ 306.874 or 155.9
Mental Illness ~ 616.89
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ~ 616.8521
Sexual Abuse ~ 362.7
Substance Abuse ~ 362.29 or 616.86
Suicide ~ 362.28
Adoption ~ 362.734
Bankruptcy ~ 346.7307
Child Custody ~ 343.7301
Divorce ~ 306.89 or 346.7
Estate Planning and Living Will ~ 346.7305
Foreclosure ~ 346.73
Hospice Care ~ 362.1
Personal Finance ~ 332

Saying farewell with stories

PPL Garden Entrance

PPL will be seeing another major change, in addition to the renovations, in 2021. On January 1, after being the children’s librarian since September 2017, Rebecca Donnelly has, as she said, “rejoined the world of regular library patrons.”

Rebecca has decided that this is the time to try to focus on her writing career, and we wish her all the success in her endeavor and storytelling. We also look forward to the stories she will create for us all.

But before she departed we asked her to share one more story with us, a reflection on her time at the library, and she did it in a way we think you will all enjoy.

Thank you, Rebecca, for the stories, past, present, and future!

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

Public Libraries Are Full Of Stories

by Rebecca Donnelly

Public libraries are full of stories. Obviously, you might be thinking; why else would we have libraries? But, of course, as a librarian who’s worked in public libraries of various sizes and in various communities in three states over the past 14 years, I’m talking about the stories that happen in the library. From a former employee who hid books and DVDs they disapproved of in the drop ceiling of the Air Force base library in the Florida panhandle to the day New York Times bestselling author Chris Bohjalian surprised the Norwood book club by calling in during their meeting, I’ve heard and been a part of many library stories over the years. 

As my days at Potsdam Public Library wind down, I’m thinking of some of my favorite stories from this place. For a children’s librarian, there’s no better story than one that charts the life of a young reader. Before I was hired on as a staff member, I substituted in a few Saturday storytimes around 2013. My main goal in storytime is to make a connection with the families who choose to spend their time with me listening to stories and building literacy skills. One of the young listeners on a particular Saturday was named Kailash, and as it happened, I had just come from working in a New Mexico library where we’d hosted a local author/illustrator whose book featured a young boy named Kailash. I mentioned the book to Kailash’s mother, who borrowed it from another library. A small, simple connection, the beginning of a friendship, and the beginning of me constantly blurting out book recommendations for Kailash, who is the sort of reader who devours stories. A librarian can’t claim too much credit for anyone’s love of reading, only for trying to offer them the right book at the right time and lots of encouragement. I’m happy to say that last year in third grade, Kailash presented the library with a printed copy of his own epic fantasy, Dragonite’s Rath, which I proudly added to the collection.

In 2019, we were extremely fortunate to be an off-campus site for one of LoKo Fest’s events, a storytelling program with the wonderful and prolific author and storyteller Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) and his son Jesse. In the middle of moving shelving and furniture around for our eventual renovation project, we somehow squeezed over 100 people into the reading room to listen to music and stories. The performance itself was brilliant, but what stands out in my memory is the young boy in the Superman costume who knew exactly what superpowers he was meant to be exercising that day and stood next to Joe the entire time, doing hand movements, dancing, and being surprisingly quiet for a preschooler. A low buzz went through the crowd, a slight murmur of disapproval, but something told me not to interfere. I’ve seen storytellers before, but I’ve never seen anyone do what Joe did for the last piece of the program. He told the story of a young boy who was chastised by his community for perceived failings but who turned out to be the hero they needed in the end. When I asked him afterward if that was a spur-of-the-moment addition to the program, Joe acknowledged that it was, and that stories were very often the most powerful way to pass a message along, even to grownups.

The last story I’ll tell is the story of you, our library patrons: anytime you’ve come up to me, asking for a book recommendation or to attend a library program, anytime you’ve made a recommendation to me or told me why you or your child love a certain book, anytime you’ve needed one more book about sharks or asked me to read to your class, I’ve been as happy as I can be. “Sorry to bother you” is a phrase I’ve always responded to with, “Please bother me” or “That’s what I’m here for,” because as much as libraries are made of books, they’re built by people and sustained by people, and they’re nothing without their community. So thank you, as well, for your stories over the years.


Voices From Within: Introspection from PPL Staffers

PPL Garden Entrance

Hey Gang!

I’m very excited to introduce the newest blog in our library family: Voices From Within.

Here you will be hearing from members of our library staff (Not me. You hear enough from me as it is. Ha!), and what makes them tick, what their interests are, what they bring to the library and, thus, what they bring to you.

Personally, I can’t wait to read what tales they tell! I hope you enjoy them as much as I am sure I will.

In this first installation of Voices From Within, Children’s Librarian Rebecca Donnelly talks about how she has been coping with being quarantined during the pandemic and she taps into several of us PPL staffers to find out what hobbies we’ve picked up during our new-found time at home.

What new hobbies have you picked up during these strange and uncertain times of pandemic isolation? Maybe Rebecca’s blog can give you some inspiration! Read on, dear patrons.

As per usual, I’m glad to be here!

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

What We Do To Get Through

By Rebecca Donnelly

In the early days of pandemic self-isolation, I’d burst out my back door and into the fresh air of my tiny yard any chance I got. I found enough wood under my shed, left by the previous owners, to build a couple of raised beds and plant early greens: chard, mustard, arugula. I built benches so I’d have somewhere to sit and watch the fragile shoots arrive and the thriving squirrel population launch their attacks on my beloved dirt. I attempted a bird feeder and dug out my Peterson’s Guide to Eastern Birds, pointing with glee every time a chickadee landed to grab a sunflower seed. “That,” I would say proudly to my seven-year-old, “is a kinglet. No, wait, it’s a chickadee. I think.” Like many others whose quarantine allowed them to adjust to this new reality at home, I came face to face with the yawning canyon of time and, to create the illusion of control, tried to fill it with nature lore and handicrafts. 

A table and bench built by Children’s Librarian Rebecca Donnelly during her time in pandemic isolation.

The most surprising legacy of my quarantine, though, might be the homemade yogurt. Springing from my slight obsession with reducing plastic waste, I decided to try making my own yogurt. I found a recipe at The Kitchn and, using eight cups of milk, one pot of store-bought yogurt, and a meat thermometer that gave me neither the high nor the low end of the required temperature spectrum, I tended my mini bacterial culture farm. Six hours later, I had two and a half peanut butter jars of runny, grainy goop, but my nose told me it was definitely yogurt.

Six months into this, I can still usually identify chickadees and goldfinches. I have three awkward benches and a little side table, more garden space dug out for next spring, and no bird feeder (dang squirrels). I’ve baked more bread and sourdough biscuits than I can fathom, and my little shed sports two roughly painted barn quilts. But it’s that weird yogurt I’m most proud of. It’s easy, it appeals to my quirky throwback side, and it even lets me wax a little philosophical, because why not?  I have time. Like sourdough starter, yogurt is powered by bacteria that will keep reproducing under the right conditions. It’s a small, optimistic investment in continuity. Whenever I make a batch of yogurt, I set aside half a cup to use the next time, carrying forward a little of the past with me into the next week of the unknown. 

Along with yogurt, furniture and raised flower beds, Children’s Librarian Rebecca Donnelly has also taken to making shed quilts.

Our PPL staff have been busy, too. Our director Annie has taken up the same scarf she’s been knitting for three years and is teaching her daughter to crochet and bake. Circulation supervisor Hayley is pickling and preserving summer’s bounty while adult program coordinator William has been perfecting his no-knead bread. I’m trying to convince circulation clerk Erin to open an Etsy store for ironic needlepoint designs.

Knitting has been a common hobby picked up by many, PPL Director Annie Davey included, during this new-found time at home during the pandemic.

What have you been doing to get through this time? Which quarantine pursuits have you joyfully abandoned, and which will you bring with you, like a jar of homemade yogurt, into the future? 

Closed for now, but remember our eResources!

Dear Friends,

Based on guidance from the New York Library Association, the Governor’s Office, and our school district, we have decided that the best way to serve our community is to prioritize its health and safety by temporarily closing the library.

We closed on Tuesday, March 17 and we will continue to be closed for renovations through late summer. Our re-opening date will be announced here and on Facebook.

We have lifted our check-out limits and we are, as always, fine-free.

If you currently have PPL books checked out, please know that we will renew your items. For inter-library loaned items, or items from other NCLS libraries, please email us at info@potsdamlibrary.org.

While we’re closed, please remember that you can access ebooks and audiobooks with your library card through the Libby app. You also have access to additional electronic resources with your library card including excellent educational content through TumbleBooksArtistWorksUniversal Class, and Transparent Language. Links to all of these resources are on our website.

Be well,


Podcast Studio

We have everything you need to make a professional-quality sound recording in our new Podcast Studio! Book a session by emailing tech@potsdamlibrary.org. The studio is ideal for recording podcasts with two hosts.

We also have a top-notch video blogging set-up including access to professional lighting, backdrops, a green screen, and a teleprompter. Come on in and record a make-up tutorial or unbox your new Lego set on camera.

The equipment below was selected for our studio after careful research and consultation with recording professionals and purchased with a grant from the Northern New York Library Network for which we are very grateful.

  • Set of two Electro-Voice RE20 Mics
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface
  • Sony MDR7506 MDR-7506 Headphones
  • MacBook Pro with Logic and Final Cut (and iMovie and Garage Band for the casual user)
  • iPad
  • Canon EOS 70D with camera-mounted external mic
  • Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera
  • Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder
  • Green Screen
  • Teleprompter
  • and lots of foam panels


“Shelfies”  are small caches of FREE books located in 60 different businesses around St. Lawrence County.

Don’t forget to share a selfie with your shelfie! #shelfieselfie #potpublibrary

If you’d like to donate your gently used books to the Shelfie program, please email us.

Seed Lending Library

Growing and Sharing

This seed library exists to help people learn to garden and save seeds, and participate in growing and sharing seeds, food, and knowledge.

Check Out Seeds

Peruse our seed book and select up to 5 varieties you’d like to grow. Bring a variety card with you to the front desk and a staff member will give you a packet of seeds.

Classes and Events

Check the library’s calendar, Facebook page, or email newsletter to find out about classes on gardening, and events like seed and plant swaps.

Preserving Our Heritage

Saving seed used to be a type of knowledge that was passed down through generations. This knowledge and production has largely been taken over by seed companies and many varieties have been lost forever.  Seed saving is a skill that provides a community with a resilience and food security. It is a way to push against the loss of genetic diversity within our food system, a way to connect with our community and often our cultural heritage.

Adopt a Seed

Choose a variety according to your level of skill at seed saving and sign up to be a “seed steward” for that variety so we can ensure a supply for lending next year. To sign up, put your name next to your variety and take a seed return form with you. When you bring in your saved seeds, be sure to bring along this form.

“Seed stewards” who successfully save and return 1 variety of seed get to choose 2 new varieties to add to the seed library for the next year!  A Seed Savers Exchange catalog will be out for perusal February through March along with wish list for your selections.

Difficulty Ratings

Green for beginner – For those who are new to gardening and seed saving, these are mostly self-pollinating varieties with minimal required isolation distances.

Yellow for intermediate – For individuals with some prior experience gardening, varieties may require specific isolation distances or may cross with other plants that belong to the same species.

Red for advanced – These varieties are difficult to obtain true seed from or require very specific practices for growing plants to produce seed.

Not Quite Ready to Save Seeds?

Not ready to save seeds but still want to grow something? You can still make a difference by donating to help cover costs.

Museum Passes

Discover the natural wonders and history of the Adirondacks or explore a shipwreck without getting wet! Our Museum Passes are here!

We have passes to The Wild Center, the Adirondack Experience (formerly the Adirondack Museum) in Blue Mountain Lake and The Maritime Museum in Lake Champlain.

  • The Wild Center Pass admits 2 adults at a 50% discount ($10) and free admission for all children age 17 & under.
  • The ADK Pass provides a 50% discount on up to 4 adults ($10) OR 2 adults for $10 & all children under ages 6-17 for $6 each. Children 5 & under are free.
  • Our pass to the Maritime Museum provides free admission for an entire family.

Passes are on a first-come, first-served basis and may be borrowed for up to 3 days at no charge with your library card.