Welcome to Western New York

By Thomas C. Bindeman
Executive Director, Nioga Library System

Since the 2013 LTA Trustee Institute is being held in Buffalo on May 3rd and 4th I thought it would be a good idea to introduce LTA members to Western New York. Western New York is blessed with numerous historical sites (e.g. Chautauqua Institute, western terminus of the Erie Canal and Fort Niagara) natural wonders (e.g. Zoar Valley and Niagara Falls) and excellent education institutions (St. Bonaventure, University of Buffalo and Niagara University) and, of course, the jewel of the region’s cultural institutions are our libraries.

The region is served by three public library systems: Nioga Library System, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System and the Chautauqua Cattaraugus Library System. The three library systems serve six counties, with 94 public libraries, serving 1,450,000 citizens.

I am the Executive Director of the Nioga Library System, serving Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties with a population of 319,000, with 21 member libraries.

Nioga strives to facilitate sharing of library resources so that all the region’s citizens have access to information and library services that advance and enhance their lives as workers, citizens, family members and lifelong learners.

Nioga provides cooperative programs and services that help our local communities take advantage of economies of scale. System staff provides professional expertise that helps local libraries achieve their full potential.

Even with a 19% reduction in state funding, Nioga continues to provide a wide range of direct support to our local public libraries, enabling them to serve their communities better.

I would like to highlight three programs/events that have made a difference in our library community in 2011/2012:

  • BTOP Express: Nioga is one of five E-mobile computing training units with high speed broadband services being deployed in rural locations and underserved communities in New York State.

The program is funded from a grant received from the New York State Library through a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) award.

The goals of the program are:

    • Increase public awareness to high speed internet.
    • Serve vulnerable populations (unemployed, underemployed, seniors and disabled).
    • Provide technical support and other resources to support job search and career advancement.
    • Advance the use of E-services for training, employment, digital literacy and education.

In the last eighteen months BTOP staff has traveled over 15,000 miles, held over 380 programs/classes (from Computer Basics to Gaga for Google to Internet Basics for Job Seekers). We have trained over 4,505 citizens

  • Dream Big Read: The theme of the 2012 summer reading program was entitled Dream Big Read. The library system was fortunate to receive two grants that supported the reading program: a state grant that paid for programming at the local libraries and a local foundation grant (Gregg Lewis Foundation) that paid for two college interns who conducted programs at the local libraries.

In 2012 over 5,000 children registered for the program, 28,000 books were read, 534 programs were held and 25,799 attended program.

  • Hoag Library opens: The library system’s first new library in twenty years opened for business on July 7th in Albion. The 14,600 square ft library cost $4.2 million. The Hoag Library (formerly the Swan Library) has up to date technology, expansive meeting rooms, and a reading loft area. Circulation has doubled since the grand opening. The Library received a total $684,684 in public library construction funds to help complete this project.

During these tough economic times, where everyone is being asked to consolidate and share services to cut down on costs, libraries continue to be one of the best examples of operational and administrative efficiency. The Nioga Library System provides consolidated service to 21 public libraries spread out over three counties … and we’ve been doing it for nearly 54 years!Each of our libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee Counties are a vital part of this network.