Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System Plattsburgh, New York

CEFLS is non-profit federated system that serves patrons of 30 public libraries in Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties in New York’s far northeastern corner. The System was chartered in 1954 by the New York State Board of Regents and is governed by a Board of Trustees composed of five representatives from each county. Each member library operates independently under the direction of its own board of trustees and is funded primarily by local taxes. CEF and member library staff and trustees work together to provide the best possible library services to people living in our region by integrating the world of books with current media and information technologies. The System’s focus on resource sharing, cooperative delivery of goods and services and collaborative project management means we can deliver thousands of dollars’ worth of enhanced library services at a fraction of the cost of providing these services separately.

The Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System spans a geographically isolated area of 164,000 square miles which is, as we like to describe in our public relations pieces, “approximately the size of the state of Connecticut.” Member public libraries are dotted across a historically rich yet economically disadvantaged region that ranges from Tupper Lake, deep in the Adirondack Mountains of rural Franklin County to Rouses Point, which is strategically located on a major US – Quebec border crossing less than 50 miles from Montreal. Libraries as disparate as the Black Watch Library, Ticonderoga (a Carnegie Library) and the Akwesasne Territory’s Library & Cultural Center, which serves residents of both the US and Canada, are linked together by a shared online catalog, and perhaps as importantly, a shared vision of service.

The Adirondack Park, which is the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States, and the largest National Historic Landmark, encompasses parts of all three counties we serve. Ironically, the Quebec-New York Trade Corridor, which is described as “the fulcrum of economic activity flowing between Quebec and the State of New York (7.7 billion in trade in 2012) also punctuates our service area. The North Country Regional Economic Development Council has a robust vision statement, which is to “Lead the Economic Renaissance of New York State’s Small Cities and Rural Communities.” These factors combine to make very exciting service challenges for our small community libraries, many of which are staffed by a single “Jill of All Trades” staff member.

The System has responded by cultivating key partnerships with public and private agencies. In 2012, we piloted the “Discovery Pass” program which gives families who hold a public library card free admission to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. CEFLS Director Ewa Jankowska says that the Discovery Pass is a boon to local families who are looking to explore a terrific natural history resource right in their own backyards. 2015 finds the System in the final phase of a three year Adult Literacy Services Grant from the NY State Library. The project leverages existing partnerships with local agencies to provide library based resources and training for job seekers. Partners are working collaboratively to support the online job search success of area residents, many of whom are “geographically isolated” and “economically or educationally disadvantaged.” When the project concludes in Summer 2016, 12 community libraries will be positioned to provide enhanced services to local job seekers, and will be accessible one-stop gateways to job search resources.

Since more than two thirds of our member library directors do not hold a MLS degree, continuing education and professional support from the System are important elements of this project and in most others as well. System consultant staff and grant paid presenters provided over 1,000 hours of library based training to library trustees, staff and the public in 2014. Topics included advocacy, service planning and community assessment, basic computer skills for adult new learners, job seekers and seniors, a variety of consumer health CE classes, and individual instruction on eBook downloading.

- Julie Wever, Outreach Coordinator CEFLS

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