Libraries say they provide important internet access for community

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 November 2021 at 7:00 am

Tom Bindeman, director of the Nioga Library System, said many local public libraries helped residents with internet access, including people using the WiFi in parking lot after hours.

ALBION – The public libraries in Orleans County are making their annual request for county funding, and this time the libraries say they are playing an important role in helping to bridge the digital divide in the county.

The libraries see many patrons come in to use computers with internet access during regular business hours for the libraries.  And many also use the libraries’ WiFi in parking lot after hours for internet access, said Tom Bindeman, executive director of the Nioga Library Sytsem, which includes libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties.

“We have people applying for jobs online, applying to colleges online from the parking lot,” he told county legislators last week.

Bindeman and leaders from the four public libraries in Orleans met with the County Legislature to ask for funding in the 2022 budget.

The libraries would like to collectively receive $1 per resident or $40,343. The budget in 2021 included $10,087 that was split up among the libraries in Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina.

The county was giving $29,914 to be shared among the four libraries as recently as 2002, but that dropped to $7,480 in 2003. Since then, the amount was raised to $12,587 in 2007, $13,617 in 2010, and then was cut to $10,087 in 2011. It hasn’t changed since then.

Sandra Shaw, director of the Community Free Library in Holley, thanked legislators for the support in the county budget. She said the libraries are doing more shared programming and borrowing from each other’s collections with the inter-loan program.

The libraries also have embraced Zoom video conferencing during the pandemic to reach people with programming who are off site.

And the libraries offer an extensive online book collection to their patrons, Bindeman said.

The libraries and their internet resources are important in the Nioga system “because there are many dead spots in the three counties,” Bindeman said about the high-speed internet gaps.