PPL: The New Village Green?
PLATTSBURGH CITY – JULY 19, 2012
So what does the future hold for public libraries, especially the one in Plattsburgh?
Due to changing technology and budget concerns Russell Puschak thinks that one option that would help the Plattsburgh Public Library to survive is for the institution to become more of a community gathering place.
Russell spoke during the fourth public forum as part of the search for a new director for PPL. The forum was held noontime in the library's second floor auditorium.
He talked about how libraries were morphing from the image of Marian the Librarian to Marian the Cybrarian, contrasting the images of the stereotypical old shushing spinster with a young computer-savvy version.
Employed at the Stafford Middle School as a librarian, Russell is presently serving as the interim director of PPL. He mentioned how this role as interim director has helped him in understanding the dynamics of the library.
He discussed how the local shopping mall has become like a community center and that by working with the city and other local organizations PPL could become part of a new village green. Russell mentioned visiting the Princeton Public Library, sharing PowerPoint images of that institution which features a café and a nearby farmers market. Giving people reasons to linger and socialize could be one way to draw more patrons to the library and the city’s downtown area.
Regarding PPL dealing with its budget concerns by becoming a special tax district, he said that at this time it was doubtful that such a proposal would fly. When asked to expand on that point, he said that Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls had great success with changing to such a district but this meant the budget each year had to be approved by voters. A couple of times the vote had been close.
Changing PPL to a special tax district status would take a lot of work, he added, and the fact that PPL is chartered by the city might be problematic when seeking such a new status.
Instead, PPL should seek more support from other communities that don’t contribute towards the library’s services, having patrons from those communities ask their local officials to help support the library’s operations. He mentioned that around 40 per cent of library users are from municipalities and entities that contribute little or nothing towards PPL's funding.
Russell was asked why he was interested in the PPL directorship position, moving from a school setting to a public library.
He explained that there are changes going on in the education system, many good teachers have retired, and also there are new requirements from the state including the testing of kindergarten children. The changes occurring in the school system were not like those at public libraries. The PPL directorship would give him the opportunity to be creative in dealing with the challenges faced by the library.
Russell is one of four candidates being considered for the PPL directorship. Each candidate has participated in a public forum where the future of public libraries was discussed followed by Q&A.