Categories
Announcements

PPL Brings Family Literacy Specialist Aboard

Warmest greetings to you, our People of PPL!

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.

Long-time educator and PPL Literacy Is For Everyone (LIFE) staffer Maria Morrison is now taking over as the library’s 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!’”

Maria has been doing pop-up storytimes in parks around Potsdam when she not only reads to kids and their parents but sings songs and teaches kids how to connect through her storytime quilts.

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.

Categories
PPL Informational Series

Information is key

Hello again, everyone,

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.

More information can be found at www.gethealthyslc.org, https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov/ or by calling toll-free at 855-355-5777. David can be reached at (315)261-2338 or at david@gethealthyslc.org

Insure NY, with David Bradford

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?

Energy Navigator’s Informational Series, with David Bradford

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/.

Throughout the presentation, Nick provided links in the chat that can help with finding energy-efficient products (https://www.nysegsmartsolutions.com/, and https://uny.home.marketplace.nationalgridus.com/), as well as where folks can find locally-produced hydropower through Northern Power & Light at https://www.npandl.com/local-gens.

Categories
A View From the Third Floor

Here’s Looking at June: A Renovation Update

PPL circulation desk has been relocated to the center of the library as part of the renovations.

Greetings, library friends,

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.

The former location of the circulation desk, at the library front entrance on Park Street is now vacant and will be the location of the young adults collection.

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.

Cracks in the pilasters came from the age of the plaster and is being restored.
Pilasters throughout the library have already been repaired.

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.

Ceiling repair and lighting installation are all part of the removal of the former drop ceiling. Chandeliers will be installed as part of the second phase of the renovations

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.

Construction gear and scaffolding surround the main reading room of PPL while workers have covered all the already restored portions of the library. We’re looking to June for a completion date.

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.

We are also continuing our PPL on the Outside Program which not only provides outdoor adventures through our partnership with the ADK Mountain Club but also brings some of the outside to you through GoPro videos and interviews such as with our new Birds of Prey Program featuring Mark Manske (and his many birds) of Adirondack Raptors.

And, of course, as new books are written by our local and regional authors, like our interview with Tim Strong, owner of Birch Bark Books in Parishville, about his debut novel Whippoorwill Chronicles. as well as visiting authors, we will continue to host conversations online with them.

As always, there will always be opportunities for you, our community, to engage with our guests.

If you have any questions, reach out to us at info@potsdamlibrary.orgFor more information on our various programs, visit our blog page at https://potsdamlibrary.org/blog/

Hope to see you all in June and happy Spring,

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

Categories
PPL on the Outside

PPL Partners with Remington Art Museum

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.

The museum is safely open to visitors and the season hours of operation can be found by clicking here.

To learn more about the Frederic Remington Art Museum visit https://fredericremington.org/ or call (315) 393-2425.

More information about the partnership, exhibits and activities at PPL will be blogged about as they evolve and as we get closer to reopening, so stay tuned.

Enjoy, be well, and make good art,

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

Categories
PPL on the Outside

Kids help us see

Greetings again, library friends!

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.

Enjoy and be well,

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

Categories
PPL on the Outside

For the Sake of Words

An interview with Tim Strong, author of Whippoorwill Chronicles

PPL Garden Entrance

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.

Be well!

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

Categories
PPL on the Outside

Beyond the Walls of PPL

Greetings, dear library friends!

Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert here with you, again.

It’s been a little while since I’ve sat down to write to you all to share some inside-the-library perspective and what’s going on here. Feel good in knowing that we have been working on finalizing a few projects through our new PPL on the Outside Program, a program I started when I was hired in June and have been working on with my colleague and cohort, Erin Carberry, who has helped me in evolving the program. We haven’t talked too much about the program and Erin’s role in it, so here we go!

PPL on the Outside is funded by the Northern NY Library Network through the Network’s Action Grant. As with any successful community project, we rely heavily on community partners like Dr. Blair Madore of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Laurentian Chapter, who has led hikes and snowshoeing trips, Potsdam Rec Department Director Trey Smutz, who has provided equipment free of charge to our patrons for programming, Mark Manske of Adirondack Raptors, the core of our Birds of Prey Program, and Maggie McKenna, Executive Director of SLAC Arts. 

That community continues to grow!

PPL on the Outside was born out of a commitment to programming while our library doors were closed during the renovations and subsequent pandemic. It also remained in step with our desire to create as much online content as possible. Our now-former children’s librarian, Rebecca Donnelly, did wonderful video interviews with children authors and created other assorted fun video content. I did a few interviews with local authors as well, but I wanted to bring something different to the table, applying my previous skills as a reporter. 

“What if we get outside the library walls and explore our community in ways that could be both exploratory and educational?” I asked PPL Director Annie Davey and Public Services Manager Sarah Sachs.

A green light was given, and so we began.

I brought my phone with me and started to video a variety of landscapes, hikes, tours of the library as the renovations were underway, and then I got together with Mark Manske for our first Birds of Prey Program video where we met his owls, hawk, and falcon (which you can see in my first PPL on the Outside blog post). During that first visit, however, my phone got jostled in the process and was knocked to the ground.

Don’t worry, it didn’t break <whew!>

Tessie is Mark Manske’s 11-year-old barn owl who was introduced to us during our first Birds of Prey Program video.

But it got us thinking, let’s apply for grant funding for some GoPros and have cameras that are not only more durable and meant for such outdoor activities, but would also have superior video quality.

In applying for the grant we wrote that, through PPL on the Outside, we wanted to go beyond our mission to “‘occupy a central and traditional role in our community to provide the tools, resources and techniques for literacy development, language skills acquisition, lifelong learning, recreation, and research,’ by creating video tours of the outdoors and interviews with wildlife experts and enthusiasts in the wild of the north country and Adirondacks, as well as recreational tours of the waterways and trail systems for activities like kayaking and snowshoeing.”

Dr. Blair Madore led library patrons of all ages on a snowshoeing adventure at Lost Pond in Cranberry Lake as part of PPL on the Outside. The hikes are free and allow us to explore the natural world that is our backyard.

We love our patrons. We love our community. We want to continue reaching you. So we asked for the funding to help create the video blogs and short films about the area for PPL on the Outside, which we also hope to turn into activities inside the library. That funding application was met with great enthusiasm and we were awarded everything we asked for, affording us two GoPros, some equipment to go with it, and funding for a new MacBook Pro for Erin to use in the editing and piecing together of our videos.

Have I told you about Erin? Let me introduce PPL Library Aide Erin Carberry in more depth. She is so much more than her title states and has been playing a pivotal role in PPL on the Outside. 

PPL Library Aide Erin Carberry has been a pivotal part of creating PPL on the Outside online content.

While I have been finding the people and stories, the programs and activities, and filming all the things that we have been wanting to share with you, it is Erin who has been putting them together in a cohesive form that makes my filming and interviews bearable to watch. I promise you don’t want to see how these videos would have looked if I had to try putting them together. 

Erin came to PPL on July 5, 2019, having just relocated to the north country after graduating from Mount Holyoke. She told me that during her interview with Annie and Sarah she talked about her experience in film as well as her coursework in digital news and podcasts. Both Annie and Sarah told me that they kept that in mind and had hoped to use those skills at some point in the future.

That time is now.

A graduate of Tompkins Cortland Community College with an Associate of Arts in Screenwriting and the Graduate of Note from her program in 2015, and earning a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2019, it was her time in Mount Holyoke where Erin said she found her love of libraries while having worked as a student circulation assistant in both the main and music libraries on campus during her senior year.

As well as holding a BA in film, Erin made several short films for college courses, completing all steps of production and post-production herself. She also has written many papers, one of which she was chosen to present at the Five College Film and Media Studies Undergraduate Conference in March 2018. During her junior and senior years at Mount Holyoke, she also wrote semi-weekly film and television reviews for the student-run newspaper, the Mount Holyoke News.

So I think I have found my videos and programs in more than capable hands with Erin. But I don’t just rely on Erin to take the footage I capture and turn it into a digestible video. Often I ask her to accompany me on filming trips so that she can give me her perspective on what would be the best ways to capture an angle or what additional footage would work.

Erin Carberry and I walked Downtown Potsdam together during a sleet storm following my recording downtown during the day. Following our two ventures, she put her skills to use, stitching together this beautiful holiday lighting video.

Erin and I were working on putting together the video clips from the Edgar Allen Poe reading series we did in October when I started to learn more about her film background. I asked her where her interest in film came from and why she pursued it as a degree.

I then learned storytelling was in her blood. 

“It’s hard to say where my interest in film began. Both of my parents are writers, so storytelling was always something I was interested in as well,” she told me. “As a child, I was more drawn to movies and television than books. I fantasized about writing and producing my own shows when I grew up. Once I got to community college, my program required classes in analysis and production as well as writing.”

But during her time at Mount Holyoke, where she was initially most interested in production, she had her love of film rekindled due to a seminar on Film Melodrama and Horror and she switched her focus to American film history and genre. 

“That doesn’t appear anywhere on my diploma or transcript, so it’s kind of just a fun fact. My favorite genres to study are screwball comedy, film noir, and melodrama,” she said. “I am especially interested in how societal and social movements affect films of their time, such as how screwball comedies parodied the widening class divide during the Great Depression.”

Writing is still something she loves to do, and although it is more of a hobby than something she would want to do professionally, there is still something of a writer’s eye that appears when she puts together our PPL on the Outside videos. 

Erin said she always starts by watching all of the footage, even though in many cases only a small portion of it will appear in the final product. During the editing process, she said she tries to create a video that would interest her, hoping that will translate into interest from our patrons and viewers as well. 

“This can mean adding background music, cutting more frequently, or putting in written text,” she said. “One skill I lean on a lot is covering awkward cuts or long, stagnant shots using B-roll, footage shot to act as filler.”

See? There’s the writer in her coming out.

“The storyteller in me tends to take over when organizing footage; I try to always communicate the story of the video as clearly as possible, even in something short like the renovation updates,” she said. “Film, and storytelling in general, is all about communication.”

We here at PPL hope that these stories speak to you and that you have been enjoying our PPL on the Outside Program and find greater pleasure knowing a bit more about Erin’s storytelling and film skills and how they apply to the creation of our videos. We look forward to seeking how it continues to evolve with new participants, with the reopening of the library, and with the ability of our all being able to spend time together again. We miss you all and if you have any ideas for what you would like to see more of or learn about through PPL on the Outside . . . or if you have any other program ideas, reach out to us. You can always email me at weckert@potsdamlibrary.org.

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

Categories
A View From the Third Floor

PPL Renovation Update

Greetings Dear Library Friends,

Things are shaping up with the renovations of your beloved library including a later estimated reopening date of May.

As I sit here looking out over the library, contractors from Wilson Flooring of Ogdensburg are laying out the carpeting for the new children’s library and circulation desk. The carpeting has been one of several expected delays during the course of the renovation, including a large delay at the start. “We didn’t start the construction right away, to begin with, due to a wait on approval for projects and being closed for the pandemic,” Library Director Annie Davey said. “Then we had a delay because of funding issues with NYS.” 

Contractors from Wilson Flooring of Ogdensburg started installing carpeting in the new children’s library on Jan. 8, 2021.

During downtime in the renovation, library staff has been working staggered hours to box thousands of books and empty the shelves that were then broken down and cleared from the main floor. We also had help from Library Board Member David Trithart, Will Trithart and Lee VanDewater who moved a large number of books to the second floor.

Architect Rebecca Weld, founder of Renew Architecture & Design, said she was looking at May as a completion date for Phase I and Phase II of the project. The work of staff and volunteers will add some time after Phase II is completed, to get everything back in order. Phase III of the renovations will not interfere with the reopening and daily operations of the library. The project grants were conceptualized in phases however it was always anticipated that projects would dovetail as they are completed, so the timing does not completely correlate with the funding structure.

Prior to the carpeting, contractors laid down a green colored adhesive that took several hours to set before installation of the carpeting.

Phase I, which included erecting a mezzanine, is complete and was done by Continental Construction of Gouverneur. Part of Phase II is in progress and will involve floor/ceiling, lobby, relocating circulation desk, and air conditioning. The HVAC part of Phase II has been awarded to Cornerstone Services of Norwood and will be the longest part of the work. Phase III is all related to staff areas (offices, kitchen, etc.) and has not been bid yet.

The library will reopen after Phase II, again, pandemic aside, and Phase III will be primarily behind the scenes. Staff may be displaced temporarily but we plan to work around it. 

Phase III is expected to begin immediately after Phase II, or possibly overlapping with it. 

A few short hours after the beginning the carpet installation, Wilson Flooring contractors were done, except for some finishing touches that involved edging.

So, although we always knew there would be changes in timing, right from the get-go, Annie has repeated the priority: We have one chance to get this right; let’s not rush it. 

“It’s kind of my life philosophy,” she said. “It’s true though. In cooking, in library work, just be the gardener and let things grow with their own life, don’t get in the way of the magic.”

We’re getting there, folks, and we look forward to having you back on this side of the PPL walls with us!

Your Adult Program Coordinator,

William “W.T.” Eckert

Categories
PPL on the Outside

PPL Introduces Birds of Prey Program

Greetings, my dear library friends,

Mark A. Manske, the founder, and owner of Adirondack Raptors Inc. is going to be sharing his years of work with, and knowledge of, hawks, falcons, owls, and other birds of prey with the Potsdam Public Library. He will also be talking about, and reading from, his series of books, Adventures with Stoney, in our new Birds of Prey Program.

While the library is closed this program will be a series of blogs and videos about the different birds Mark works with at his home and in the wild, as well as his book readings. Once we can reopen to the public, we will hold in-person discussions and Mark will be available in person, accompanied by his Eurasian Eagle Owl, Morley, and sign copies of his books. 

As you will read below, Mark is a wonderfully enthusiastic storyteller. When he and I got together over the summer to talk about the program, he talked about how Adirondack Raptors got started. Mark revealed how he first came to love birds, carving the path to his future as a birder and educator, discussed some of his adventures trying to rescue and band birds for study, and took us for a virtual tour of his “Raptor Palace.” 

Happy reading. We look forward to seeing you, Mark, AND Morley, here in the library when we reopen for in-person birds of prey programming,

PPL Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert

Wednesday, the Eastern Screech Owl, is one of two of her kind living as a rescue bird in Mark Manske’s “Raptor Palace.”

A BIT ABOUT MARK AND ADIRONDACK RAPTORS

Mark Manske started Adirondack Raptors Inc. in Dickinson Center, NY, in 2008, while he was still teaching at St. Lawrence Central High School, but had been working with birds of prey since 1984 when he was working with Francis and Frederick Hamerstrom — who he called his mentors — during his time in graduate school.

“I got very involved with them then, so when I came back to teaching I said, ‘Well, I am going to continue,’ and I got working with banding migrating birds of prey in the north country,” Mark said.

Mark said his earliest memory of loving birds came from a tale his mother told him about when he was in first grade. 

“My mother thinks it is because when I was in first grade I couldn’t see the chalkboard in front of me in the classroom,” Mark recalled. “Then they figured out, by the end of the first grade, I needed glasses and so when I got glasses she said I was all of the sudden like, ‘oh, look at the birds! This is what you were talking about.’ She said, ‘you were so enthralled with them that I think that really stuck’ . . . Maybe she’s right? Maybe she’s right.” 

But it was the birds of prey, specifically, that were “near and dear to my heart,” Mark said. He pointed to their size, power, and beauty, saying the birds are keystone creatures for the ecosystem.

In 1987 Mark started working with Mike Peterson, of Elizabethtown, under his banding permit for 20 years until about 10 years ago when Mark started working with him to get his own banding permit. 

“And as I was going through the teaching I remember, with the Hamerstroms, it was so hands-on and you were working with raptors and I thought, it was such a magical experience,” Mark said. “I would love to do something like that, and that’s what got me started.”

Since that time, Mark has retired from teaching in high school and has been an adjunct instructor at Paul Smith’s College where he recruits and trains his student apprentices, or “Gabboons,” as he calls them. He has also constructed a “Raptor Palace” in his front yard where Morley the Eurasian Eagle Owl lives with his younger sister, Millie, a Barn Owl named Tessie, two Eastern Screech Owls named Pugsley and Wednesday, a Gyr-Saker hybrid falcon named Phineas, and a Harris’s Hawk named Mortimer, all of which you will be able to meet and learn more about in the video at the end of this blog.

At 11 years old, Tessie, the barn owl, is the oldest bird of prey living in Mark Manske’s “Raptor Palace.”

BANDING PROGRAMS

Through Mark’s various banding programs, he and his Gabboons help to allow the birds to be recognized as individuals, similarly in the way a license plate differentiates one person’s car from another identical make and model. It also helps to determine the health and well being of the bird as well as finding out where it has migrated from. 

“And we get a wealth of knowledge,” Mark said. “Birders watch birds and they learn a lot. Birders can be very good biologists but unless they are individually marked, you don’t know which bird is which. They are coming and going at the bird feeder, and maybe one has a natural marking that helps you distinguish it from another one, maybe one has a behavioral thing, but maybe there are two that have that behavioral thing, so you don’t know for sure.”

That’s where banding comes in handy.

Mark has tracked his banded red-tailed hawks and kestrels as having traveled from here to places like the tarmac of the Miami-Dade Airport, Miami, Fl., and near New Orleans, La.

“We caught a saw whet owl one time that was banded by someone else the year before,” Mark recalled. “It was banded in Duluth, Minnesota, and then, three days later, a bird that I had banded four years before, a saw whet, ended up in Duluth, Minnesota, so we traded birds. People think everything is going north-south, this one went east-west, so unless you band them, you don’t know what is going on.”

But Mark does more than just banding birds, he and his Gabboons have responded to rescue work, going to spaces in buildings where birds have gotten in but have been unable to get out. The team will catch them, make sure they are healthy, and, if they are malnourished or have other health issues, will bring them to a rehabilitator and nurse them back to health. 

GABBOONS TO THE RESCUE

Mark recalled a recent rescue of a great horned owl that flew into a big barn in Malone and got completely coated with manure. 

“The people caught it and stuck it in a trash bin, they called me, I went over, and we pulled it out,” Mark said. “One of us was holding it while the other was hosing it down and scrubbing it down and cleaning it and you know that owl did not like that and it was several pounds worth of dirt and manure and sand, and it took forever to clean it off.”

At the time of the rescue it was nesting season and the owl, being a male, was likely providing food to its mate and their downy owlets, Mark said, so, after several days of observation to make sure the bird was okay, the team banded it and released it back into the wild within the vicinity in which it was caught. Normally the team would relocate the bird to avoid another entrapment, Mark said. 

Mark and his Gabboons also participate in Project SNOWstorm where they track and tag snowy owls. Many of those misadventures are the vehicle behind Mark’s first book, Adventures With Stoney: The Great Snowy Owl Caper.

A few years ago he received a call from the state Department of Environmental Conservation asking him to come out and capture a snowy owl at the Ogdensburg International Airport.

Airports with enough air traffic and larger planes are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration to chase off owls or other big birds, which could also result in shooting the birds if they refuse to leave, Mark said.

“Snowy owls are like couch potatoes, they’re not going anywhere, they will shuffle around and kind of grumble about it like you and I would, but they’re not going anywhere,” Mark said. “Well, they tried scaring them off, they didn’t want to shoot them, so, to their credit, they contacted the local DEC, who then turned around and contacted me, and I said we would definitely help. We’re not going to see snowy owls come all the way from the Tundra just to be shot here.”

Mark has rescued snowy owls from Ogdensburg and Malone and has reached out to airports in Potsdam, Massena, Plattsburgh, Lake Placid, Lake Clear, and Watertown.

“I’m willing to travel if we can shuttle birds out to a better place because they’re not at the airports because they like to watch the planes fly, they’re just coming there because there is a wide-open habitat which kind of resembles the Tundra and they can sit on the buildings or the towers and look out for hunting purposes,” Mark said. “So we are trying to figure out where they are going to, where they are coming from, how long they live, that type of thing.”

Plus, Mark and his Gabboons have been working with banding, monitoring, and managing the American kestrel population in the area. Next year will be the twentieth year of the program.

An American kestrel previously banded as part of Mark’s near-20 year program.

THE BEST WAY TO LEARN IS “HANDS ON”

It is this kind of hands-on experience that he picked up during his grad school years when he was working with the Hamerstroms that Mark said he wanted to bring to the north country and to his teaching as an adjunct at Paul Smith’s, but, more importantly, outside the classrooms.

“Hands-on is the best way to learn and also we have a banding station for saw whets here where kids actually get credit to come work on that,” Mark said. “So I always open it up to my students. It makes you that much more rounded, it gives you that much more experience, and let’s face it, you can talk about a snowy owl and look at pictures, but if you are holding one, it’s a whole, totally different experience. You feel that connection with another creature.

“There is nothing better than knowing that you are doing something that is affecting another species for the positive,” Mark added. “We all try and affect things positively but at a much smaller scale, generally, and, whenever we can, we always feel very good about that. So we just took that, maybe magnified that quite a bit more, and we are trying to affect that at a little bit of a larger scale, because we also affect things negatively, whether we like to or not, we always do, it’s just part of being human and living on this planet, so we are trying to, maybe instead of doing some negative things, maybe do some positive to balance out.”

Keeping in step with his passion for recounting his adventures, Mark said for years he had been thinking about writing a book, maybe a compilation of short stories on experiences he had with the birds and other creatures.

SPINNING TALES FOR THE PAGE

He connected with Gary VanRiper, who authors the Adirondack Kids series with his wife and son. Gary advised Mark to consider his target audience and consider what his stories would be focused on and, in following a year-or-so of thought, Mark settled on an audience of middle school-aged kids. 

“You know when people turn off from reading, there are two age groups and one of those age groups is that middle-school age,” Mark said. “And I thought that would be good because they would be good stories for them to read, but educational and at the same time it would give me the chance to tell stories that have happened to me and get those stories out there.”

Mark has two books in the series published, a third in the process of getting published, and a fourth in the creation stage, each of them a blend of fiction and nonfiction, and either about adventures Mark has had throughout the years or adventures his friends had, which is why he calls his stories Adventures With Stoney, not Adventures With Mark, he said, “because they are not all my adventures.”

Mark’s first book, Adventures With Stoney: The Great Snowy Owl Caper, from which he will be reading when we meet with him next, comes from a combination of unusual experiences that happened to Mark and a friend of his, during each of their separate attempts at trying to catch a snowy owl for the first time . . . And that’s where the adventure takes off!

Join us, won’t you?

To learn more about Project SNOWstorm and track tagged snowy owls in your area, visit https://www.projectsnowstorm.org/

To learn more about Mark, Adirondack Raptors, his books, and his mission visit http://www.adirondackraptors.org/

Questions for Mark can be sent to weckert@potsdamlibrary.org and will be presented to Mark during his reading of The Great Snowy Owl Caper. 

In the meantime, let’s visit the Raptor Palace and meet Morley and his friends!

Mark Manske of Adirondack Raptors gives a virtual tour of his “Raptor Palace,” introducing his seven birds of prey.
Categories
A View From the Third Floor

The People of PPL

Greetings, Folks,

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the fact that so many people are not going to be able to see their loved ones due to the pandemic and the reported increase in COVID-19 cases in our communities. I was reminded of how thankful I am for the people I care about and won’t be able to see, as I know many of you are.

Among those people missed that we at PPL are thankful for are the wonderful patrons and friends of the library. 

For a little while now some of us PPL staffers have been thinking about you all, about how we miss having the doors open to the community, and how much we miss seeing each of you walking through those doors, roaming the aisles, perusing books and movies, reading the newspapers and magazines, browsing the web, or just hanging out.

We miss it, and I say this as a fella who, at the time the library closed its doors to this pandemic, was one of you: a then-reporter who would use the library as an office and would consume as many Kurt Vonnegut books (print and audio) as possible.

Since the time the doors closed in March, the world (and our interior) has continued to go through drastic changes. We think about those changes every day, and have been hearing from many of you: hearing about what you have been missing about the library during this time, about your memories of first experiences here, what brings you back, the people you would meet on Sundays to swap sections of the Watertown Daily Times (I might be a little biased, but I really love hearing that, as a former Times reporter).

These stories mean a lot to us, and by the fact that you are sharing them with us, we know they mean a lot to you. I had been talking with your faithful library director, Annie Davey, about these stories and she shared hers with me. The library brought her back to her hometown all the way from Denver, and as I am tapping into my years as a journalist and applying them however I can to this new role as the Adult Program Coordinator at the library, I started asking some of you to tell me your stories so that I can share them with the community.

Here begins the People of PPL edition of my A View From the Third Floor blog: Your stories, memories, anecdotes, the things you miss most about the Potsdam Public Library during this time of “Rona & Renovation.” We are asking you to send them along (500-1,000 words with a portrait) so we can share them with your library community. You already know each other, but, in some cases, you haven’t been introduced. Such was the case with one woman who talked about a group of patrons she would trade sections of the newspaper with: “Oh, Chris was great . . . I don’t know that I know his last name, we just happened to be at the library at the same time.”

Now you can get to see each other and share stories again, just in a bit of a different medium, as a placeholder until we can commiserate inside the library together again.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to weckert@potsdamlibrary.org, and be sure to include a photo so we can see your smiling face again in whatever environment makes you happiest.

Can’t wait to hear from you,

William Eckert

PPL Adult Program Coordinator