The holidays are behind us and many of us are coming down off the high of that busy season: running to the stores for last minute gifts; trying to get to the post office in time; did you remember all the ingredients for the certain dish you were cooking before the stores close for a day and a half?!
Okay, stop. 🛑✋
Look around. You made it. We are into the first week of 2022 and the season of getting your bearings about you are afoot! The question is, what to do with the time you were spending running around.
Well, we just added a book to our North Country Collection full of suggestions, which will do you good the whole year ‘round.
Places to go and Things to do: Out and About in the North Country, by Kendall Taylor (second edition), is a wonderful book loaded with information about trails, parks, festivals, driving tours (What?! I LOVE a good driving tour!!), museums, Shipwrecks (Seriously?! Tell me you don’t want to know more!) . . . The list goes on.
The book started out as a fundraiser 15 years ago for Kendall’s daughter’s school, but she said that edition was only used as a guide for “what not to do” in this “sophisticated” edition that she added was modeled on the Lonely Planet series (the Australian travel guide book publisher), with side bars, i.e., “don’t go on Tuesday, it’s too busy. If you go on the weekend, you get in free between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m,” Kendall said in a phone interview.
In fact, this second edition was published as a fundraiser for the museum. Sharon Williams, the museum’s executive director, tells us that the book can be picked up at many of the local book stores, convenient marts, museums, or at the Children’s Museum website: https://northcountrychildrensmuseum.org/shop/
Have a look at the video below to see and hear more about the book from both Sharon and Kendall and, just like we at the Potsdam Public Library advocate through our PPL on the Outside Program, get out and explore your greater backyard!
Well, it might not be winter yet, but winter weather is here, and in what is known as “Frozen River Country,” that means we can hide inside or learn to fall in love with winter by getting outside in ways that are new to us.
We chose getting outside, and did so, frequently, with our friend Blair Madore, who has taken us on a variety of nature hikes. (If you have been keeping up with out PPL on the Outside blogs and have subscribed to the Potsdam Public Library YouTube channel, you likely have seen our videos of Blair on the trail).
Along those adventures, Blair led a series of snowshoe trips. If you haven’t gone snowshoeing before, it is quite exhilarating and if you find the right places, as Blair does, you get to see nature in a whole new way.
At its inception, PPL on the Outside was rooted in exploring the wilderness and curated trails of Potsdam and beyond. The more I talked about it, the more I had people telling me I needed to talk to and coordinate with Blair Madore. I didn’t know Blair at the time but was quick to learn that not only is he a math professor at SUNY Potsdam, the vice chair, education of the Adirondack Mountain Club Laurentian Chapter and the Red Sandstone Trail Coordinator, but he is a staunch advocate for getting into the wild.
By the time we finished our first call together about free, outdoor programming, we had agreed to a partnership between PPL and the ADK Mountain Club and scheduled an autumnal, two-day walk along the Red Sandstone Trail that would highlight both its natural and historical setting.
Since then we have had several hiking and snowshoeing adventures in and out of the Adirondacks. We even coordinated a Pirate Hike for kids on Sugar Island, where Blair regaled families of the legend of the Pirates of the Raquette River and had them search for lost treasure.
While we are working on more free, outdoor adventures together for our community to participate in, I sat down with Blair to talk about his love of nature and of all things Potsdam, and below is Blair, in his own words, kicking it off in his feelings about Potsdam in a nutshell. “Life in Potsdam is good!”
Be well and we’ll see each other soon!
Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert
“Life in Potsdam is good. For people who don’t know me, I lived in Toronto for a long time before I came to Potsdam, and of all the things I wanted in life, I wanted to live in a small college town with access to nature. I thought that was a place in Ontario but it turns out it was a place in New York. In fact, the place in Ontario I had set as a goal to live is actually nowhere near as good as Potsdam, when it comes to that small-town life with a great access to nature.
“So that is a big part of what endears me to Potsdam.
“(O)ur club puts on a lot of regular activities. Sometimes it reaches a lot of people and sometimes it doesn’t and working with PPL on the Outside has been great because it has managed to tap into a different segment of people who might be interested in this kind of thing. (S)o we got to do some great activities, and a bunch of different people participated with us, and I am certain that those people have done more activities since and will probably continue to do more activities.
“So in that regard it has been a huge success.
“We are lucky . . . Before I lived here I lived in Toronto for a long time and I was still an avid outdoors person, but in Toronto I would drive two hours and hike five miles into the woods. In order to get to what I can get to in a 10-mile drive and 10-minute hike from Potsdam. And there is more to be discovered.”
Over the years of discovering the surrounding natural resources, Blair has also discovered that there are a bevy of hidden gems that are unmarked. And while he said one would need a personal guide to help find these trails and waterfalls and other such locations, he has certainly become that guide for many of us.
Until recently, the Tooley Pond waterfalls hikes were among those trails that were unmarked by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, unlike so many other trial heads. Hikers instead had to keep an eye out for an 8-by-10 board marking the trails, and really needed someone who knew the terrain. Blair was that person for the last 10-to-15 years.
And even after all that time, Blair is still discovering new trails.
“I discovered that there is a whole new hike on Tooley Pond Road that’s not marked, that nobody knows about,” Blair said at the time of of our interview. He reported back that this trail he described is now marked for public access. The name of that trail was not immediately available.
“There’s a huge granite outcropping with beautiful cliffs on the side of it that apparently people have been using for climbing for some time, but it is otherwise not known about at all,” he said. “And very recently the Department of Environmental Conservation sent a team of trail workers up there and they built a beautiful new trail that goes up to the cliffs, circles around back so that it’s not too steep, and then climbs up to the top of the hill (where) you have this incredible view over the surrounding countryside.”
And it gets better!
When he reached the top of the cliff, Blair said he was welcomed by an “incredible roar.” After looking around, he found the sound originating from Twin Falls, nearly a mile away, although it sounded like it was right next to him.
“I never had any idea this place was there, whatsoever. I discovered it this year. How many other places are there that I don’t know about, that you don’t know about, that other people don’t know about?”
As a member and officer of the Adirondack Mountain Club, Blair celebrated what he said was a fantastic “bonanza” of people using and discovering these trails since the pandemic. He cited his club cohort, Mark Simon, who coordinates the Stone Valley Trail and has been a trail coordinator for more than 20 years, as having said he has never seen this much human traffic on local trails.
Moreover, aside from the ADK Mountain Club and PPL on the Outside, Blair pointed to the STLC Trails, a website administered by the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the St. Lawrence County Trails and Nature Up North, as being a champion of trail information including maps, hiking tips, how to find equipment, outdoor challenges and more, making it easier for individuals and families to romp around the woods.
“It’s been really exciting doing this partnership with the library,” Blair said. “Definitely the folks on our executive committee at the (Adirondack Mountain) Club have encouraged me to continue doing it and do more.
“You know, our club wants to encourage people to take care of the wilderness. A lot of people really think that you join the Adirondack Mountain Club because you want to go hike the (Adirondack) High Peaks and, for some, that is true, but the big, long-term goal is we want people who enjoy the outdoors and who enjoy the wilderness because if we don’t have those people we don’t have the stewards for the future, and as much as we would like to think that the wilderness takes care of itself, it really doesn’t. It needs stewards. It needs people to help make sure that those trails are in good shape, to help make sure that those properties don’t get bought up and turned into something else, to really help manage this sort of public trust, this resource that we get to share all together. The club does a lot of things but that is certainly at the very heart of what the club is all about. Anything that helps to promote that is a great thing.”
September 26 kicks off 2021’s Banned and Challenged Books Week, where we celebrate the right not only to read, but to have the right to choose what we read without censorship.
Each year, Banned and Challenged Books Week has a different theme. This year’s theme is Books Unite Us; Censorship Divides Us.
At Potsdam Public Library we celebrate the right to read and aim to give the public open access to books and information and to raise awareness of censorship.
In addition, we work to create programs that support the promotion of reading and fight against censorship.
So, to kick off Banned and Challenged Books week, on Sunday, Sept. 26, from 2 to 3 p.m. we will be hosting a “Read Out” on the front steps of the library where community members, educators and writers will talk about the fight against censorship and will read selections from books that have been banned or challenged by schools, bookstores or libraries.
In the event of inclement weather, the program will take place inside the library in the main reading room.
Throughout the remainder of the week, ending Oct. 2, there will be an open mic from noon to 1 p.m. set up on either the library front steps or in the library’s main reading room, again, depending upon the weather, where members of the public can sign up to read for up to 15 minutes from a selection of any book that has been banned or challenged.
According to the the American Library Association (ALA),
“Every year, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles a list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools. The lists are based on information from media stories and voluntary reports sent to OIF from communities across the U.S. The Top 10 lists are only a snapshot of books challenged. Surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported and receive no media.”
You can find the top 10 most challenged books for each year (2001 – present) here.
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2020. Of the 273 books that were targeted, here are the 10 most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:
George by Alex Gino Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message. American Library Association. (1996-2021). Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists. Retrieved from https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10
With the light at the end of the renovation tunnel approaching and a grand opening event on the horizon, we have additional exciting news!
Potsdam Public Library is pleased to officially announce Maria Morrison as PPL’s new Family Literacy Specialist.
If you have been following us on our YouTube page, Facebook Page, or Instagram page, you might have seen Maria doing a read-aloud of Iggy Peck, Architect, while appropriately surrounded by all the renovation equipment on our library floor and pop-up storytimes in the parks to the tots of our community. She’s fun like that and is going to bring a lot to our programming for families.
As part of her storytimes with families, Maria said she made little reading quilts so everybody can maintain sufficient distance during the pandemic, but the quilts also bring in that concept of connection to children, she said.
“What in your quilt is similar to the person sitting next to you?” she said. “Do you share a piece? Do you share a pattern in your quilt? Do you share blues? Do you share flowers? And so you can create a community that way, where the quilts bring you into a learning process of colors, a learning process of patterns, but also a connection process.”
PPL Director Annie Davey said Maria has boundless energy and is passionate about literacy for everyone, from babies to grandparents and everyone in between.
“She had been single-handedly stocking hundreds of little free libraries (which we call Shelfies), getting books into people’s hands wherever they are, in waiting rooms and gas stations, all over northern NY and even into Vermont,” Annie said. “One of my favorite things about Maria is how she inspires people. Hearing someone say, ‘I’m just not good at learning, I’ve never been any good at math, you’re wasting your time with me,’ her response is, ‘Well, I saw you walk in here today. You didn’t start out knowing how to walk. You learned that, and you can learn this too.’ And with small steps forward, her students build confidence. It changes how they see themselves.”
“I’m so excited that we get to channel her enthusiasm and her sense of fun into our PPL Kids programming,” she said.
Maria also brings a broad teaching experience and has worked with kids from birth to 18 years of age. She has been working with the library since 2016 where she started with Literacy of Northern New York. When Literacy for Northern New York pulled out of St. Lawrence County, Maria was hired by PPL as a library employee under LIFE: Literacy is for Everyone.
“In 2015 I started working for Literacy of Northern New York and when they decided to stop funding the St. Lawrence County portion of Literacy of Northern New York, the library graciously said, ‘hey, we need to have literacy in Potsdam, not just in St. Lawrence County.’ That was in 2016, so we set up LIFE, Literacy is for Everyone, and put up our own umbrella and started pulling things in.”
That included Literacy, ESL (English as a Second Language), Adult Learning, and kids.
Maria became program manager for L.I.F.E. and, among her duties, taught classes. Then she went back to teaching full time.
“So my job fell back to a part-time position and Bobby Gordon came in and was handling training tutors, matching people up, testing people to see where they were and then I walked back out, again, from teaching in 2018 and said, ‘I don’t really want to do that anymore.’
Then, PPL Public Service Manager Sarah Sachs contacted her to become our family literacy person?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely. You are going to pay me to read to kids? I am on board!’”
But Maria will be doing a whole lot more than reading to kids, and even focusing on children alone, Sarah said.
“Maria’s practice is meant to promote children’s literacy in a very purposeful and research-based way, as is our adult program, and since we initiated LIFE, we have been wanting to more and more do stuff for families, adults and children together, and so that’s something that Maria does particularly well,” Sara said.
In addition to PPL’s traditional programs for children like baby times, storytimes, a summer reading program, and Battle of the Books, there will also be a family piece, so that parents can learn a lot about helping their children with their literacy and have fun at the same time.
Maria said literacy is intergenerational and it needs to be addressed as such.
“If there are no books in the house, then children don’t read and parents don’t read,” Maria said. “So pulling parents in, even at the level of reading to children, is going to add to that literacy level for those children.”
And there are a lot of stigmas attached, she added.
“Parents who don’t read well don’t want to read to their kids,” she said. “They don’t want their kids to get beyond them, but that needs to be addressed and we need to address it as a family crisis because that’s what it is. It’s not just that the kids don’t read well or the parents don’t read well, if the whole family is not reading well, then you are raising generations of people who aren’t able to function as well as they should be in society.”
So keeping that family connection and that community connection going is really the heart of family literacy.
A few weeks back, one of our wonderful PPL trustees, David Bradford, reached out with some programming ideas that we all agreed could be beneficial to the public.
David is both the volunteer Energy Navigator with Cornell Cooperative Extension as well as a New York State of Health certified navigator with the St. Lawrence Health Initiative.
On April 7, PPL hosted an “Insure New York” virtual conversation and presentation with David, in his capacity with the St. Lawrence Health Initiative, about affordable health insurance in a time where insurance has seen mandated changes due to Covid 19. Watch that presentation below.
David also talked about the increased financial assistance available with President Biden’s March 11 signing of the American Rescue Plan signed into law, making health insurance more affordable for both those that still need health insurance and those who already have plans.
PPL hosted a second talk with David on April 21 in his capacity as Energy Navigator. During that presentation, David promoted ways folks can make energy efficiency and cost-saving improvements to their homes, leading to ways homeowners can participate in incentive programs through NYSERDA, and potentially get a free “energy audit”.
That presentation, which can be viewed below, resulted in some questions, including whether non-profit organizations’ buildings are able to receive an energy audit?
Nick Hamilton-Honey, the CCE of SLC Natural Resources & Energy Educator covering St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, said community energy advisors vary depending on your county. Jefferson and Lewis counties are covered by Katie Ripstein at CCE of Jefferson County; Clinton, Essex, and Hamilton counties are covered by Annie Arnold at ANCA. More information, including contact info, can be found at Smart Energy Choices North Country https://smartenergychoices-northcountry.com/.
As you may have seen from our photo and video posts on our Facebook and Instagram pages, renovations are moving right along here at your library. We are well into phase two of the project, with the air conditioners fully installed and the HVAC portion of the project completed by Cornerstone HVAC.
The circulation desk has found its new home in the center of the library, just at the base of the mezzanine staircase. Formerly located to the left of the doorway when you entered the library, the crew from Northern Tier, out of Gouverneur, took the desk apart in sections and began reassembling it in its new location this week (April 6). My, what a difference it makes, having it under these marvelous high ceilings, rather than under what was formerly an auditorium balcony.
In addition, a new doorway in the mezzanine classroom has been created in order to access the hallway elevator.
The pilasters that are along the walls had degradation from age and the ornate tops were cracked. The gang at Northern Tier has done a beautiful job scraping away the old plaster and restoring them to a new glory.
Library staff has been moving shelving into the children’s area to line the now finished walls, getting it ever closer to its final stages of completion.
Work has also begun on the restoration of the ceiling with the filling of holes and sanding and opposite that, the carpets will soon be ready to be yanked up for the maple wood beneath to be restored.
But back to the ceilings, we are really excited to see the new chandeliers, some of which will be attached to a cable that can be raised and lowered by a switch on ground level, to help allow for the changing of bulbs and cleaning, which helps when you have ceilings that exceed 20 feet.
Electricians are also at work, installing new lighting, replacing and altering wiring as needed and installing new outlets and switches.
While there has been no hard-and-fast reopening date, due to the pandemic altering the availability of materials and workflow, as well as natural work delays, we are hoping for a June reopening date. As we get closer to that date, we will be working together to figure out what kind of programs we can immediately welcome you into and are excited at the prospect of being able to be reopen at a time when we will be able to have our community come inside as opposed to us having to do curbside service.
In the meantime, we will continue to provide online services, such as our recent virtual tour of the Frederic Remington Art Museum, thanks to our partnership with them which will also lead to a rotating exhibit here at the library once we are open. We also have informational Zoom presentations and conversations like the recent Insure New York presentation with David Bradford, New York State of Health certified navigator with the St. Lawrence Health Initiative, about affordable health insurance in a time where insurance has seen mandated changes due to Covid 19.
Well now, library friends, I come with exciting news!
After months of planning and conversations with our friends over at the Frederic Remington Art Museum, we are proud to formally announce our stepping into a partnership where, once we reopen, we will begin selecting locations throughout the library for a rotating Remington art exhibit.
In announcing PPL’s partnership with the Frederic Remington Art Museum, Laura Desmond, the museum curator and educator, helps us kick it off by guiding us on a tour of the museum, highlighting some of the noteworthy pieces of art on display.
The partnership will also include activities we are developing, including potential talks and learning opportunities surrounding Remington’s art and other local art inspired by Remington, as well as a display of books in our collection related to Remington’s work and life.
The library is a lot of things for a lot of people; a place to come read and borrow books, a place to use the in-house computers, printers, or wifi, a place to take your little ones for storytime. The library has been a hub of literacy, a resource center, and a place capable of a wider cultural impact.
Through this partnership with the Frederic Remington Art Museum, we hope to allow members of our community who have not had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful Remington Museum in Ogdensburg to get a taste of it in their newly renovated library.
Additionally, we hope this virtual tour and any potential exhibit will encourage you to visit and support the museum and those that have made it the wonderful and world-renowned institution it has become.
As we look back at the wonderful success we have been having with PPL on the Outside and have been grateful for the many folks who have been spending time with us to help educate, foster literacy, and lead adventures, we have been looking back at some of our early projects through the program that we led on social media platforms but didn’t have a space for here.
One of those projects was my first Zoom recorded PPL on the Outside author interview with Rose Rivezzi and David Trithart, authors of Kids on the Trail! Hiking with Children in the Adirondacks.
Twenty-two years ago David and Rose put out the first edition of their guide book. Now, their second edition has a variety of additional new kid-friendly trails and abounds with resources and tips on how to nurture your little ones in the wilderness while also teaching us adults how to benefit from seeing the wild through their eyes.
The interview was wonderful as is their book which supports my own experiences hiking with children, showing that they certainly slow you down and allow you to play in ways we forget to as adults and make us look around more at the present instead of always looking ahead or behind.
If you’ve seen the interview, you know it was worth a second, third, or fourth viewing. If you missed it, now you can watch it anytime.
An interview with Tim Strong, author of Whippoorwill Chronicles
Hello, once again, our beloved People of PPL,
Continuing on a theme of PPL on the Outside, here we give you my interview with Tim Strong, owner of Birch Bark Books in Parishville, about his debut novel Whippoorwill Chronicles. I’ve done a few interviews with authors on Zoom, but this time we found ourselves in a situation where that wasn’t an option. If you have been to Birch Bark Books, you know it is a place that is a seeming place of no technology and it is marvelous! So, thankfully we have the GoPros we were granted and wrote about in my previous blog about our PPL on the Outside Program. My PPL on the Outside video cohort, Erin Carberry, and I mounted a GoPro in my car and took the show on the road and interviewed Tim from the comfort of his store’s from desk where we were heated by his wood stove on a day the store was closed.
Tim gives a great interview. His novel and its background are both great stories. So, sit back and enjoy the conversation.