The Mohawk Valley Library System: Connecting Libraries to the Futue

By Eric Trahan, System Director

Public library systems in New York State were created to insure that all New Yorkers have access to library service, to foster collaboration, resource sharing and efficiency in library service, and to assist libraries in meeting the changing information needs of their communities. The Mohawk Valley Library System’s mission statement: to coordinate, strengthen and stimulate public library and information services in Fulton, Montgomery, Schenectady and Schoharie counties, identifies the three ways in which our system works toward the accomplishment of those goals.

The MVLS service area is a typical, yet unique, slice of upstate New York. We include one mid-sized city (Schenectady), three small cities (Amsterdam, Gloversville and Johnstown), many small villages and lots of farmland. Our features include the southern edge of the Adirondack Park, with several lakes & mountains, the famous Erie Canal, with the industrialization that it fostered, rich colonial and Revolutionary War history, and the northern ridge of the Catskills. Our people are extremely diverse, from the latest Guyanese immigrants to farmers working the same land that their ancestors cleared in the early 1700s; from a repatriated community from the Mohawk Nation to the growing Amish population that is keeping small farms in production.

Our library system connects libraries to the future by serving this vibrant community in the three ways enumerated in our mission statement.

Coordination Like all public library systems, MVLS coordinates resource sharing by providing an integrated library automation system that serves as a union catalog and request manager for our member libraries. However, we take ordinary service as step further by collaborating with our neighboring public library system, Southern Adirondack (SALS). The Joint Automation Project, developed by MVLS and SALS in the 1980s, has grown into a cutting edge solution that connects every public library in eight counties to a common, live catalog. Library users in the two systems have access to a shared collection of over 2.3 million items, with delivery that can get items between sites in 1-2 days. In addition, the JA operation provides a turnkey solution for libraries, offering hardware and software specifications and ordering, networking, patron management software, troubleshooting and maintenance for all staff and parton workstations in every member library.

Strengthening Service MVLS has several initiatives designed to strengthen library service in our communities. In the past year, we have been concentrating on improving governance and management through trustee training,a new policy initiative, and advocacy training for our libraries.

Stimulating MVLS helps keep member libraries up-to-date and in touch with changes in library service in a variety of ways. In the past year, we have provided members with a new laptop lab and Digital Literacy training, iPads for all sites, training in Early Literacy, a collaborative grant program that promotes the use of graphic novels to encourage reluctant readers, and an initiative to display children’s books by genre and subject. Through all of these efforts, the Mohawk Valley Library System seeks to enhance public library service for the residents of the Mohawk Valley.

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