Chartered in 1960 and located in New York State’s Capital District, the Upper Hudson Library System is a cooperative public library system serving 29 autonomous member libraries and two correctional facilities in Albany and Rensselaer County. Our service area is 1,198 square miles with a population of 466,626. Our member libraries represent the spectrum of public libraries in New York State, from urban to suburban to rural, from school and special district libraries, to municipal, to association libraries. Albany Public Library is our largest member library with seven neighborhood branches serving 98,000 residents in the New York’s capital city.

We also count among our membership several small rural libraries serving smaller communities. By population, our smallest member library is the Arvilla E. Diver Memorial Library, serving the 592 residents of the village of Schaghticoke. Regardless of stature and resources, UHLS strengthens our member libraries by providing the leadership, support, and services they need to be 21st century public libraries, libraries that are essential to the diverse communities they serve.

A few of the areas of focus for UHLS that merit special mention are trustee training, youth services, and eContent collection development.

A new approach to trustee training:

When library trustees are armed with the tools and information they need to lead the libraries they serve, both the library and the community grow and thrive. UHLS has developed a unique approach to trustee education. The CORE Trustee Training program provides a basic overview for our newest library trustees based on our CORE values of Community, Openness, Respect, and Ethics. Recognizing that library trustees are dedicated individuals with multiple commitments, we deliver our program in an on-demand format, on-site at member libraries.

Our member library trustees have responded enthusiastically to the CORE program and we are very proud to say that we have achieved 100% member library participation in basic trustee training.

A commitment to youth services:

Leadership, collaboration, and advocacy are key components of strong services to youth in UHLS. We are currently engaged in a multi-year prototype project on early literacy involving libraries of all sizes that builds on the NYS Ready to Read initiative and includes presentations to community leaders. Every year, UHLS helps libraries address “summer slide” in their summer reading and learning programs through practical training, resources, and partnerships, including collaborations with legislators. Our libraries also get their “maker mojo” on with our STEAM resources: Squishy Circuits, Makey Makey, Makedo, and more help kids and teens develop their scientific curiosity at the library, and grants awarded to UHLS help train library staff to be adept mentors for young library users. A notable benefit to the public is a shared calendar of youth services programs across the system. Our commitment to keeping member library staff serving youth current and expert on issues and services has a positive impact in every library, every day.

An open access eContent collection:

UHLS was an early entrant into the library ebook landscape in 2006, with an initial collection of 6,000 items. Nearly a decade later, the collection has grown to 30,000, with all of our member libraries collaborating together to build this truly communal collection. Virtually all of our eContent material is available for use by all users, reflecting a strong commitment by UHLS and the member libraries to share resources for the benefit of all users in the System service area.

Our usage statistics demonstrate that this philosophy works, because eContent circulation continues to grow for all member libraries, comprising nearly 10% of total circulation in all formats. In order to remain ahead of the curve of eContent activity, UHLS established an eContent Advisory Committee composed of member library representatives. This group meets regularly to identify eContent trends, analyze use and collection statistics, and to make recommendations to the System and to the member libraries as to best practices for dealing with this relatively new area of library service. The way we have built this new collection through member library collaboration, resource sharing, and a commitment to excellence, will be a model for the future in UHLS.

Looking into the future, public libraries must continue to be “centers of community” – places where people can come to learn throughout their life, to connect with the digital world, and to engage with the people and organizations around them. UHLS is committed to strengthening the public libraries in Albany & Rensselaer Counties, supporting the work our libraries do every day to transform lives and build community.