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Another Voice: Library’s lecture series imagines a greater Buffalo

By Dennis Galucki

The Another Voice column on Jan. 17, “Informed decision-making should guide Buffalo,” spoke to the objective of the Tuesday IMAGINE lecture series hosted by the downtown Buffalo and Erie County Public Library for the past six years.

Each of the 210 lectures and discussions to date has used the lens of either art, architecture, history or nature and asks community leaders to imagine the future of greater Buffalo. Two primary objectives are stated: First, imagine a healthy, wealthy and sustainable community; and second, imagine Buffalo Niagara as a binational cultural and nature center.

By soliciting various opinions about the meaning of such words as healthy, wealthy or sustainable, we might help achieve our stated community objectives. Remember that over 100 years ago Buffalo was wealthy by some measurements – for instance, most millionaires per capita in America in 1900. What happened to that wealth? Why are we now often referred to as one of America’s poorest cities? How can we better measure health, wealth and sustainability?

Although we will probably not see regional government in my lifetime, we could see improved regional cooperation between cultural organizations and tourist agencies. For instance, while every county, like Erie County’s Visit Buffalo Niagara, must promote its local scene, why not collectively also create one impressive physical and digital map of the Western New York region and the Niagara-Ontario region combined, highlighting to the world – and ourselves – the combined treasures in our midst. It would help us see ourselves as a binational cultural and nature center.

Finally, to accomplish our stated objectives, I believe “place-based lifelong learning” will have to become a reality. I also believe this is the unique role of the library system in the 21st century.

The lead editorial on the same Buffalo News page was headlined, “Cause for celebration – Bump in high school graduation rate is good news for students and the city.” Indeed, Buffalo Public Schools’ Class of 2015 crack of over a 60 percent graduation rate was the first time in a decade, The News stated. What will be called success in the 21st century – 70, 80, 90 percent? Where are students going with a high school diploma in today’s economy?

Let’s be straight with our youth and tell them from the start, “Lifelong learning is a reality in the 21st century.” It may include two-year schools or more after high school. It should include self-taught awareness of areas of personal interest – what I call, “place-based lifelong learning.” Notice all the locals now interested in silos and the waterfront – art, architecture, history and nature.

Objective-based, place-based lifelong learning is happening here and I imagine greater Buffalo Niagara will be a greater Buffalo because of it.

Dennis Galucki is coordinator of the IMAGINE series at the Central Library.