Library service in uncertain times

For the past few years the Tupper Lake Public Library, aka the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library, has sent out an annual appeal letter seeking donations from our community members to help us install a new HVAC system. This year we will not be sending out a letter. Having received a considerable outpouring of support from Tupper Lakers, and having secured state grant funding, we are now in a position to finish our HVAC project. It is a testament to Tupper Lakers that they so adamantly believe in the mission of a public library to support us throughout this initiative. For that help, we would like to say thank you.

Much of the work done to bring in state funding to help with this project — and to send out stacks of letters to area property owners — was accomplished by my predecessor Peg Mauer. With no little amount of prescience, Peg retired just as the coronavirus pandemic was ravaging New York downstate and beginning its long sweep across the country. As the new director, my first task was to craft policies, along with the board, to deal with the impact of the pandemic. It was rough going at first, and every day seemed to bring with it a new challenge. But with dedicated staff and a hard-working board, we were able to reopen our doors to the public safely by the beginning of June. We were the first library in the Clinton-Essex-Franklin tri-county area to do so, and we continue to welcome patrons in each and every day.

Since beginning curbside service we have circulated close to 5,000 items, have welcomed nearly 1,000 guests, have provided new and improved outdoor Wi-Fi to countless people, have copied, printed and faxed hundreds of documents, and have been conducting regular programs — both remote and in-person. Students studying for the GED are back in our building. A cohort of locals are making monthly use of the community room to sew dresses for children in the developing world. Staff conduct poetry walkabouts around Tupper, do weekly Facebook Live crafts, stories and sing-alongs, and promote popular pumpkin decorating contests. We’ve had Zoom lectures from a maple syrup scholar as well as a local historian who recounted the epistolary efforts of Tupper Lakers abroad during World War II. As a silver lining of our new remote existences, these library talks attracted attendees from all over the United States.

Integral to offering these new remote programs has been funding that we’ve received from a host of foundations. Through the Adirondack Foundation’s SUN Fund, the library has been able to purchase a Zoom subscription, laptops and audio equipment to make these remote programs possible. We have also recently received funding from the Northern New York Library Network to help us process items from our local history collection. We are currently in the early stages of looking to hire a temporary project archivist to help us complete this grant. And the Pearsall Foundation has also given funds to the library to help us purchase the personal protective equipment and custodial supplies we’re suddenly in dire need of on a daily basis.

So rather than sending out thousands of letters this year asking for your help, we at the Tupper Lake Public Library wanted to send out just one letter this year telling everyone in the Tri-Lakes region what we’ve been up to and that we’re trying to do the best we can to serve our community in these challenging times. We’d also like to encourage everyone to give us a call or stop in to find out how the library can be of service.

As we continue to look for new avenues to provide services to our community, donations are also always welcome.

Ben Gocker lives in Tupper Lake and is director of the Tupper Lake Public Library, commonly known as the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library.


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