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May 4, 2013

Beyond the stacks: Local libraries offer everything from history to technology

The local libraries within the Four County Library System still make information available to their patrons in the traditional way — books. They are also storehouses of local history: old photos, newspapers, genealogy records, diaries and letters.

But, in recent years, electronic media have been introduced into libraries, broadening the powers of the system to educate, research and entertain through DVDs, audio books, ebooks and public-use computers. Neither does the atmosphere in the new library pay homage to the old. The new library does not hush people for speaking above a whisper. There is more conversation, entertainment and community space. Libraries have become social hubs of clubs, classes, lectures and special programming, much of it for children.

Marie Bruni, director of the Huntington Library in Oneonta, said she is proud of Huntington’s collection of scrapbooks, photography and train pictures.

“We have a very large collection of railroad photographs,” Bruni said.

But Bruni noted that her patrons rely on the library for computer and Internet access, as well as instructions in the use of the new technology.

Rodger Oesterle, director of the Stamford Village Library, said his facility offers just about everything possible, including a knitting club and a “Great Books” discussion group. Among its historical holdings are a set of paintings of schoolhouses by Lamont Warner.

Stamford’s historical collection can be researched in person; some items, mostly photographs, are available through the website New York State Digital Collections.

As far as modernization goes, though, Oesterle said it “has been very slow getting off the ground. ... We’re continuing to upgrade our abilities to work with patrons on accessing some of these ebooks, because there are a whole lot of different formats and devices involved.”

The library’s collection of ebooks can be downloaded to a variety of e-readers.

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