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Library link a success story

Dolores Marino, who has been a volunteer at Niagara Falls Public Library since 1974, is dwarfed at her desk on the second floor of the Main Street branch by all the stacks of books that surround her.

She's not in a rush to get rid of the clutter, though.

Marino is meticulously researching each book through used-book Web sites and eBay to figure out what price she can charge for the books so she can raise money for library programming. That programming includes adult classes and children's events and other items not covered in the city budget.

"They're my favorite things," Marino said as she surveyed the various mounds of books in all sizes and shapes on or near her desk.

Marino, 73, a retired Niagara Falls City School District language teacher, has spent the past year collecting thousands of donated books -- she says many are valuable -- and selling some for 30 percent of the Internet price in the library gift shop. The shop is run by the Friends of Local History and others online and brings in about $1,000 per month for the library.

Marino is president of the Friends of the Niagara Falls Public Library and had previously served on the Niagara Falls Library board of trustees, an appointment that wasn't renewed after the library board successfully sued the city in 2005 to get its full allocated budget.

After a year off the board, Marino was recently appointed to a new five-year term by Mayor Vince Anello. She says she's excited to serve the library in that role again but would keep volunteering there almost every weekday even if she weren't on the board.

>What led you to begin volunteering at the library?

It was about 1971, when they formed the Friends of the Library, and I was away getting a graduate library degree, attempting to be a school librarian. I had always wanted to be a librarian, but I couldn't do it because of the downsizing of teachers and school staff in the 1970s, so I decided the next best thing would be to volunteer. I saw an article in the newspaper that they needed some people to volunteer to help with a book sale, and I thought I could do that. Since then, I've been hooked.

>Have you always loved books?

Oh yes. When I was a child I couldn't wait to get my own library card. You couldn't get it until you were in the second grade then. I used that library all the time. I would say that every week I would go to the library.

>How many books were you allowed to check out?

When I was in grade school I think it was four, but then in high school it was eight, so I would take eight books home.

>What do you think about the popularity of using the Internet to do research. Will it replace books?

I love the Internet, but I don't think it takes the place of books. You can find out so many things if you read. I don't think you can find all these things using only the Internet. I've found that some things I've looked up I've wondered about and looked more closely and seen these people are trying to sell a product. They don't really come right out and say they are, but they're selling something.

Books have their place, and the Internet has its place. I've been fascinated by using computers to really enhance what we do in the library. For example, we've got a project through the Friends of the Local History with Oakwood Cemetery to develop an online archive of of those buried. Once we get all the material in the computer, then we can start manipulating it so you'll be able to sort by name. Before, you had to know exactly when they were buried because the journal at the cemetery lists them by date. So how would you know? What if you are looking for an ancestor and don't know the date they were buried? Right now we're just in the preliminary stages.

>Where did you get the idea to sell books on eBay?

We belong to the Friends of the Library USA, and they send us every month a little newsletter. One of the headlines was, 'Rochester Library Makes $10,000 on eBay.' I thought, 'Wait a minute, we can do that.' There are quite a few libraries that do that. We just had to get started and know what we were doing, and I think you have to get a nice supply. We have a nice supply now, about several thousand books. There are other places you can sell [online], and I do the research to see what the prices are.

>What drives you to continue volunteering for the library?

I suppose anybody who has worked in education has a spark of wanting to serve your community. I went to the former 17th Street Elementary School, Gaskill Middle School and Niagara Falls High School. They provided me with a good education, so I went on to Buffalo State College and then to University of Chicago for my master's degree.

>How do you feel about serving on the Library board of trustees again?

I am really happy about that. I think the mayor was generous, you know the fights we've had. When I wasn't reappointed last year, I said to myself you're not going to get me to be upset about it. I've been volunteering for over 30 years. Why would I stop now?

>What do you see for the future of the city's libraries?

This library is going to stay. We were told last year to look at new locations, and we looked into it. Where in the city are we going to go? We tried looking at several locations.

I also think the LaSalle Library is going to stay. You have to have both buildings. I think you have to be considerate of people who live in LaSalle. We have a lot of older people who use the library. We get a lot of walk-in trade. Our building here is really well used. We have people coming in all the time to use the computers and look at the books. We have a tremendous amount of people who use the library for meetings. Where else can you have a meeting and not pay for it?

Our circulation is over 100,000 in the audio/visual section, and the computers are used all the time. I also think it's our job to teach people how to communicate through writing and reading but also through the use of the Internet and teaching them proper ways of doing it.

>What message would you like to give to lawmakers about the library?

When you don't have a problem and things are running smoothly you think, 'OK, everything is fine.' But you don't know all the work that has gone on behind the scenes, about all the work [Library Director Betty Babanoury] has done to run the library with the amount of money she's been given.

We really have a lot of city retirees working for the library, which saves the city money by having only to pay health insurance costs once, which I think is a creative way of doing it. But I keep thinking of the future because retirees are retirees, and they have given their time loyally, but we need new blood. I don't want this to sound as if I'm against [hiring retirees to save money], but we've got to find some way to bring in new people. This is something that must be addressed.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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