I just came back from Western New York. I stopped at several Buffalo & Erie County library branches and it was really sad that they are closing the libraries. I visited the first library I ever went to the Cazenovia branch and it closed in November. I walked it, it was 204 steps to my Grandmothers's house. I'm sad to see that close.
I went to the Elma branch, which is the first library I used by myself, I was allowed to select my own books rather than just going with my Grandmother. They signed me up for a card and let me use the computer. I had to get a 'computer only' card -since I'm from out of town I can't check out any books. Elma is not on the closing list, but they need community donations to keep open enough hours to maintain state certification.
I also went to the Depew branch which is closing at the end of this month. You can no longer check out books there, only return books. They are having a book sale at the end of the month. $2 hardbacks & $1 softcovers, the next day the prices are cut in half and the final day it is all you can jam in a bag for a buck. I know books are inanimate objects but to sell library books off like so much flotsam and jetsam saddens me. That there will be fewer libraries in Erie county saddens me even more.
There were some bright spots. I saw two advertisements in the "Buffalo News" for librarians, both at UB one for a medical librarian and one for some other type that I can't really recall as it was some management type position. That beats my local paper. Unfortunately there will probably be 100 qualified applicants for those positios. I couldn't bring myself to apply. There are laid off librarians in WNY who need those jobs more than I do.
I did visit the downtown branch, I'm not sure I've ever been there before. I did not find the staff remarkably unhelpful, but then I didn't ask for anything other than directions. I did make a few observations. No one uses self check out. They are even offering a $0.75 coupon for a Wendy's combo meal if patrons use self check out. There was a line of 12 people but no one used self check out.
There are only two small bathrooms in the whole building and in both people were practicing good hygene by either shaving or bathing. One of the facilities, the Humanities and Science reference room is closing one day a week because of the budget cuts. Simply amazing. I don't know what caused the budget problems in Erie County (I know what caused it unchecked spending and a corrupt administration) but I don't know why the people of WNY tolerate this crap.
I did see some other non-library related stuff like churches I once attended. The Basilica of Our Lady of Victory and some others primarily for their architecture but some just because I remember them as a kid. I also saw the Frank Lloyd Wright designed mausoleum at Forest Lawn (as well as visiting all my dead realtives pread from Lancaster, to Lackawanna, to Buffalo near the Corner of Harlem and Genesee. Oddly a lot of people were out in the snow visiting the graves.
The newspaper also had a great article about the Patriot Act's library records provision and what is used much more frequently -National Security Letters. It says we should be more concerned with NSL than anything else. See it for free for a few days a the News. Interestingly the 'My View' column right above that story was from a soldier who thinks the troops are doing their job and who is not real please with the media noting that as "Rancor and hyperbole peak, we continue to be fed bastardized statistics." (read 'em quick they will be free only another week, then fee based.)
I also went to the Broadway market, that was the most disappointing part. When I was a little kid it was a treat to go there. Now it is almost deserted. It is really sad to see the city's businesses and culture fade away. My Grandfather was the plant engineer for some years before being promoted to chief plant engineer at city hall. I never really knew what he did other than keep the boiler running. I never knew what a boiler was but I knew it was a really important job because he had a reserved parking spot.
So while my trip to Buffalo was bittersweet it still feels like home. I did stop at a real estate agent's office and pick up some brochures. If I could find a job there I would move back in a second. Old friends are still around - people I've known for more than 30 years who are happy to see you if you have been gone 3 days or 3 decades. Heck even the lady that rear ended me on Main Street in Williamsville knew my uncle the eye doctor.
Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can't Go Home Again, but you can - you just have to realize it has changed and not always for the better.