Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Library Project 2 - Proposal for a New Reference Library

Below is a fictitious proposal for a new series of libraries to service a real location - Montgomery County, NY. I chose a county as opposed to a city. Hope that's okay...

Dear Grant Organization Members,

I would like you to consider providing funds for the Outpost Library Project for Montgomery County, New York. The project would create small neighborhood storefronts in the outlying regions of the county for the purpose of free public access to the online reference databases that the current free library system provides.

There are six public libraries, part of the Mohawk Valley Library System, that serve the county. All six fall along the spine of the county, in communities that border the I-90 Thruway.

Inclusive list of MVLS libraries within Montgomery County:
• The Amsterdam Free Library (
• The Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery (
• The Frothingham Free Library (
• The Fort Hunter Free Library ( )
• The Fort Plain Free Library ( )
• The Margaret Reaney Memorial Library (http://www2.telenet/community/mvla/stjo)

These are fine institutions that provide a wide range of services for an equally wide county demographic. The majority of these libraries are housed in historic buildings that double as museums for local and American history. Membership to this library system allows patrons online access to a broad range of subscription databases provided by EBSCO and NOVEL (The New York Online Virtual Electronic Library) that include scholarly periodicals and journals on art, humanities, science, environmental issues, and education. They also provide links to general encyclopedias, other New York state library system catalogs, the Library of Congress, information on local history and genealogy, health, education and career sites.

So why are outpost libraries necessary? The answer lies within some startling area statistics.

• The county population has been steadily declining over the past thirty years. In 1980, U.S. government census data reported Montgomery County population at 53, 439 people (information found at The 2006 U.S. Census Bureau report has further indicated that the county population has decreased to 49,112 people.

• The median household income for the county, as of the year 2,000, was $32,128, with 53% of those households making a living on incomes less than $35,000 per year. 2004 U.S. Census information indicates that the median income has gone up to $35,800, not a significant increase over a four year span of time.

• Approximately 61% of the adult population (age 25 and over) has an education at, or below high school level. And 57% of the entire population of the county falls in the age demographics of 35 and over (with an additional 16% in the 20-34 age range category).

• The unemployment rate for the county has steadily increased, as the population density has decreased. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( indicates a gradual unemployment increase from 5.4% to 7.2% between the years of 2005 and 2008 (as of August, 2008).

These libraries service a decreasing population of less than 50,000 people, the majority of who have no more than a high school education. And the libraries have an extensive selection of reference sources both in online databases and in-house reference material. Ideally, each library services less than 10,000 patrons.

The 2006 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey indicates that the higher an individual’s level of education, the higher his or her annual salary; a median average of $26,000 for a high school graduate versus almost $60,000 for a masters or professional degree.

So, why doesn’t access to this free public resource reflect itself in the general prosperity of the Montgomery County population? I believe that part of the problem lies, ironically, in library inaccessibility.

• The six libraries are located along the highest populated, main corridor of the county but are not as easily accessible to outlying communities in a widely rural geographic. When you factor in harsh weather conditions (winter snow/spring floods, reaching the closest libraries can be even harder.

• The high percentage of low level income families might not be able to afford the cost of at home internet access. Food and heat are far more important.

There is also an increasing population of Amish people in the county. The state of New York has been sited as the top state for Amish family migration since the year 2002 (according to a study done by Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania – Their presence in Montgomery County is strongly prevalent. The Amish people choose to live in areas of rural isolation so that they can live and worship based on the simple ‘back to the basics’ lifestyle they have chosen. The government has determined that the Amish are within their rights to consider the completion of their children’s formal education by the age of 14. And the Amish are not known for embracing technology.

My conclusion is that having small storefront library centers that branch into the outlying communities would provide access to valuable resources that the county’s main demographic - low income level, high school educated adults – don’t seem to have.

• The proposed outposts would be located in central community areas, and would consist mainly of a bank of computers that could access the library system’s online databases.

• One or two information technology specialists could manage each outpost and assist patrons in utilizing existing web and database resources.

• These specialists might also serve as an outreach to members of the Amish community, who regularly seek current information, but who are ethically opposed to using internet technology. Therefore, each outpost could also be stocked with daily newspapers from the local communities, and a few general reference books such as Encyclopedia Brittanica, an Almanac and a few occupational handbooks for the Do-It-Yourself members of the community.

• Each outpost could be equipped with two or three study rooms for school age students to gather to do group internet researches. And reference books pertaining to college entrance procedures and careers should also be made available.

• The county is approximately 405 square miles of rural land with approximately 122 people living within a square mile. These branch library outposts could be placed strategically within 15 mile radiuses of each other to be able to effectively serve the scattered population in the outlying communities.

• The outposts could also be utilized in providing close to home workshops to assist the unemployed in finding and developing new career paths.

The main asset of having these Library Outposts in place is increased accessibility for the patrons who don’t have a lot of resources at their fingertips. Please review this need for an outpost program closely, and get back to me with your own thoughts. I believe the program would be an enormous asset to the Montgomery County community.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blog Reflection #5 - The importance of evaluation

The topic posed for this particular blog was to find a resource that would help others learn the importance of evaluating websites for accuracy. I gave it some thought, and decided to do a little experiment. I decided to use Google itself to challenge website accuracy. 

I googled conspiracies, and came up with a site that listed popular conspiracies. One of them involved the Jewish plan for world domination. Hmmmm. So I went back to Google and typed in 4 words that didn't necessarily have to do with this conspiracy - Jews in the world. Those words could generally reference a lot of topics, right? They could reference history, demographics, current events, etc. etc...

Here are a few of the hits I got: (the URL alone sounds fishy to me...) (the man is selling books about the threat of the Jews...) (I liked this one) (looks quite informative)

The first two websites had disclaimers about the information posted there, and how the website administrators were not responsible for the information they collect, which seemed to be designed to strike fear in the hearts of the Gentile population.

The third site, by Jeff Weintraub, was a blog. And guess what? He was willing to post his credentials as a university professor and... a Jew.

The fourth site was posted by an organization that had a vested interest in preserving Jewish culture and history.

These four sites had wildly different agendas with information "skewed" to fit those agendas. So, this experiment alone, I think, shows why it's important to evaluate the resources you are using. It also shows how the information that you find on Google is not always reliable.

In our class discussion about finding reliable web resources, I had selected Harry Houdini to research using the websites recommended by the Librarian's Internet Index. The information I found on Houdini seemed reliable enough, but the website was run by a magic shop owner promoting his store and his magic act. Not necessarily a fully reliable source. But since the Lii is such a reputable organization that screens and verifies the authenticity of its sources, I felt much more comfortable with the information I found through its links.

Yes, evaluating the information we find is essential in this day and age, which is why using reputable reference sources is also essential.