Seed Libraries are Sprouting Up in
St. Lawrence County Libraries


 Spring is officially here, and it’s time to start thinking about summer gardens! Several libraries in St. Lawrence County offer what is commonly called a “Seed Library” where community members can borrow, share, and donate all varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb, and flower seeds.

The benefits of a seed lending library are many: it is a way to have fun, build relationships with fellow gardeners, and share resources among neighbors. Seed libraries offer an efficient and sustainable way to share community resources. They encourage experimentation, affording gardeners (or aspiring gardeners) a low-risk way to try something new.

The way a seed library works is very simple: in the spring, gardeners “borrow” seeds from the library and donate unused or surplus packets of commercial seeds for others to share. At the end of the growing season, gardeners save seeds from the plants they’ve grown and return a portion of the seeds to the library. The library stores the seeds for the winter and makes them available to users once spring arrives.

Locally, two libraries have established seed collections: the Ogdensburg Public Library is on its fifth year and the Hepburn Library of Lisbon is on its third. Both libraries offer an assortment of vegetable, fruit, herb, and flower seeds. Some seeds are organic, non-GMO varieties, and some are hybrids or heirlooms, depending on what has been donated by local gardeners.

The Potsdam Public Library is in the process of implementing a seed library this year and is hosting a “Seed and Plant Sharing” event on April 15th from noon to 2:00 pm. Potsdam is also planning to host a program on seed saving later in the season.

Other libraries participate in gardening programs. The Morristown Public Library has a youth garden club that worked with local volunteers and businesses last summer to design and build a raised 4x8 foot garden bed. The children planted vegetable seeds and cared for the garden throughout the growing season. At harvest time, a local volunteer helped the kids prepare a meal using fresh vegetables from the library’s garden.

The Canton Free Library offers a tool library that has more than a dozen garden and lawn tools that may be borrowed by county residents with a library card. Items include a bulb planter, garden cart, pruners, clippers, shears, and more.

The Norwood Public Library offers a variety of canning equipment that may be borrowed by county residents with a library card. Norwood has several canning guides, multiple sets of canning utensils, and both pressure and water-bath canners.

Libraries are a great resource for books and magazines on gardening, landscaping, and food preservation. Most books and some magazines are searchable in our online catalog at For example, the Canton Free Library subscribes to MaryJanesFarm, Cooking Light, and Cook’s Illustrated. The Hepburn Library of Colton subscribe to Country Gardens, Northern Gardener, and Rodale’s Organic Gardening. The Reading Room Association of Gouverneur subscribes to Garden Gate and the Ogdensburg Public Library subscribes to Better Homes & Gardens.

Many of our gardening and food magazines are not cataloged, but may be checked out by visiting the library that subscribes to a specific title. For example, the Hepburn Library of Lisbon offers Clean Eating, Vegetarian Times, and Veg(an) News. The Norwood Public Library subscribes to Fine Gardening.

For more information about seed libraries, gardening, food preparation, and food preservation, contact one of the libraries above, or stop in and see what’s available. Your local public library is a great resource…. so check us out!

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She plants a variety of herbs and flowers every spring, but relies heavily on the farmers market and local roadside stands for most of her fresh summer produce.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

St. Lawrence County Libraries Offer
Free Access to Consumer Reports Online


 Many libraries offer the print edition of Consumer Reports magazine for patrons to read in the library or to borrow and take home. What if the issue you need is checked out to another patron, or your library doesn’t have the space to store last year’s back issues? Unlimited access to Consumer Reports Online is available for free simply by using your library card.

Doing research takes time. Choosing the wrong product wastes money. Consumer Reports Online provides the user with a comprehensive archive of expert, unbiased reviews to help the reader make the right purchasing decision every time. Online access is normally $35.00 per year, but is free to library card holders.

The online site provides access to articles and blog posts, as well as video, slide shows and other multimedia features. All of the features are available on a computer, mobile browser, or smartphone app which makes it easy to check reviews from home or while shopping in a store. Access also includes ratings, reviews, expert buying advice, product comparisons, consumer user reviews, and video clips for over 7,000 items including electronics, appliances, home & garden, automobiles, baby gear, and food products.

To access Consumer Reports Online, go to the North Country Library System’s website at and click on the Consumer Reports button. You’ll be prompted to enter your library card and PIN numbers.

In addition to Consumer Reports Online, the library offers sixty-seven digital magazine subscriptions via our Overdrive Magazine service. Magazine titles that include product reviews are Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Sound & Vision, PC World, and Macworld. A link to the Overdrive Magazine collection is also available from the NCLS home page.

Access to our online subscriptions is entirely free as long as you have a library card - if you don’t have one, visit your local library and sign up - all you need is photo identification and proof of address. While you’re there, check out all your library has to offer - you’re sure to find something new!

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She actively uses Consumer Reports prior to making purchasing decisions for work and home.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

Meet Penny Kerfien,
Executive Director of the Ogdensburg Public Library


I recently had the opportunity to sit and chat with Penny J. Kerfien, the Executive Director of the Ogdensburg Public Library. We met in the second floor auditorium which provides visitors with a sweeping vista of historic Library Park, the waterfront, and the St. Lawrence River.

Penny was supervising dedicated library volunteers who were stuffing and addressing fundraising letters for library card holders in the Ogdensburg service area. Penny and her Board of Trustees are spearheading a combination of fundraising initiatives and an upcoming ballot referendum to help support the library’s goal to provide materials, information, services, and programs for the enrichment of the Ogdensburg community.

I’ve known Penny for a number of years as a professional colleague - Penny is well-respected among her peers as a dedicated library advocate, mentor, and champion of children's literacy.

Penny is a native of Oswego County and grew up in Volney, a small town near Fulton. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in library science because she is a true bibliophile, enjoys working with people, and delights in connecting readers with a book that they love. Penny holds a Master in Library and Information Science (MLIS) from Syracuse University and has worked in the library field for most of her adult life. Her first library job was working as a librarian and computer teacher at St. Mary’s School in Oswego, and she is the former director of the Fulton Public Library.

Penny came north to St. Lawrence County in 2014 to head up the Ogdensburg Public Library where she is seen most days interacting not only with staff, but with the many visitors who stop by the library to check out a book, use the computer, or just relax with the daily newspapers. When the position of library director became available, Penny knew she wanted to work here because she enjoys the quiet community environment of small town and rural living. She is fortunate to have family living in Potsdam, including two great-nephews and a great-niece, all of whom she adores and visits as often as possible to watch them grow up. In fact, Penny’s office has a number of photos featuring the kids.

Penny enjoys not only reading, but photography and the outdoors. She vacations in the Adirondacks, at a friend’s camp, or in Maine. She reads a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and is currently torn between reading Hidden Figures or The Cellist of Sarajevo. She also has a large collection of vintage Nancy Drew books.

Penny is the primary caretaker for Sophie, the library’s pet red-ear slider turtle who was rescued in December 2015. Recently, Penny was helping set up Sophie’s new habitat and almost fell head first into the miniature pond. Penny laughs when telling the story, and is grateful for the bevy of patrons who would have been happy to rescue her! She reports that Sophie has an interesting personality that is both stubborn and inquisitive, and that Sophie has brought much joy to library visitors as they observe and interact with her on a daily basis.

Most mornings, visitors will find Penny taking a quick tour around the library, assisting patrons, answering questions, and ensuring that everything is running smoothly. Lunchtime will find Penny walking Sophie around the park, or grabbing a quick meal with friends at a local restaurant.

Penny is grateful for the warm welcome she has received in the Ogdensburg community. She brings a refreshing atmosphere to the library where everyone - children and adults - can feel at home. Penny and her staff are dedicated to providing the community with an inviting and responsive library that is integral to the city and surrounding environs. Her goals for 2017 are to increase library usage, help people find what they want, and showcase what the library has to offer. When asked where does she see the library in five years, her response is that the library will be a vital part of the community and the information center for everyone.

So, the next time you’re in Ogdensburg, stop by the library and say “Hello” to Penny, Sophie the Turtle, and the rest of the library staff and volunteers!

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She has worked with Penny Kerfien on a number of projects within St. Lawrence County and the North Country Library System.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

Libraries Offer
Book-Club-In-A-Bag Program to the Community


 Are you a member of a local book club? Looking to start one? Your local library’s Book-Club-In-A-Bag service can provide you with everything you need for your next discussion!

The North Country Library System (NCLS) has ready-made book club kits packaged and ready to lend to book clubs within our service area. Kits include a canvas bag containing twelve paperback copies of each title and a printed list of discussion questions curated by professional library staff.

Book Clubs are a great way to meet new people, expand your reading list, engage in stimulating discussion, and take a break from everyday life. Some book clubs are highly social while others are more academic. Book clubs may focus on a specific genre of books, or may choose a diverse set of titles from month to month. Each book club has a unique personality and vision.

Book-Club-In-A-Bag kits can be checked out for six weeks, and they can be picked up and returned at any NCLS member library. We currently have forty-three titles in multiple genres, including “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah, The Martian by Andy Weir, The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan, and The Girls From Atomic City by Denise Kiernan. A full list is available online from the NCLS catalog by searching for Book-Club-In-A-Bag, or click here.

If you’re looking to start a book club or join an existing one, just ask your local library staff - many libraries host book clubs or can direct you to other groups within the community. If you’re looking for a Book-Club-In-A-Bag kit, you can place one on reserve at your library, or from home by logging into the NCLS catalog with your library card.

Whether you’re interested in a book club, or reading independently, there’s something for everyone at your local library… stop in and check us out!

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She is currently reading “A Darkness Absolute”, a detective thriller set in the Yukon wilderness, written by Canadian author Kelley Armstrong.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

St. Lawrence County libraries offer book

recommendations through Beanstack


Beanstack is a free reader’s advisory service that curates and recommends children’s books available within the North Country Library System. For many kids, figuring out what to read can be intimidating, especially since we have over 75,000 different juvenile titles within our sixty-five libraries!

Beanstack is easy to use - parents and caregivers create an online account and register children as participants. Although the program requires some adult contact information, children can be identified simply by a nickname and age.

In order to provide book suggestions, participants are asked to input their reading level and select up to three subjects, three genres, and three types of characters they enjoy reading about. Then, Beanstack’s algorithms select and suggest books that match the child’s preferences. Clicking on a title brings the reader to the North Country Library System’s online catalog where parents and kids can view more information, locate the book in a specific library, or request the item through interlibrary loan.

Kids can maintain a log of books read and earn badges as they reach incremental goals. Users can opt-in to receive weekly or bi-weekly book recommendations via email, and can change their preferences as children grow and interests change. Other features include a wish list of books to read, book list recommendations, and educational apps for Android and iOS devices.

In addition, there are over seventy-five themed guides covering a wide range of topics: seasons, animals, geography, history, culture, and many more. Themed guides typically include an extensive book list, activities, craft projects, and ideas to integrate reading with other forms of experiential learning.

Beanstack may be used in the library, at home, or on a mobile device. Beanstack is available and free to everyone with additional features unlocked for library card holders. To access Beanstack, go to the North Country Library System website at and click on the Beanstack graphic on the right-hand side of the page.

Explore Beanstack’s juvenile book suggestions and visit your local library… there’s sure to be something of interest, so check us out!

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She enjoys recommending books to young readers, and her favorite picture book is “We Are in a Book!” by Mo Willems.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

Hepburn Library of Lisbon lends 10,000 items in 2016


The Hepburn Library of Lisbon has been serving the community for ninety-six years and is committed to providing quality service to those who visit and partake in its programs and services.

In 2016, the library hosted 9,230 visitors who borrowed library materials, accessed the internet, participated in a library-sponsored programs, attended an event in the community room, or sought a quiet place to read, study, or visit with friends.

The library offered 84 programs to the community for all ages with an attendance of over 1,000 individuals. Library programs included story times, movie nights, craft days, nutrition classes, makerspace projects, fitness classes, informational lectures, and painting classes. The library participated in Halloween Trick or Treat, Train Day at the Museum, Homecoming Weekend, and the regional Battle of the Books competition.

The library hosted 87 community and private groups who used the community room for meetings, birthday parties, baby showers, and other social activities. The library routinely hosts meetings for the Lions, Trappers, and Sportsmen groups.

The library collaborated with the Lisbon Beach and Campground by providing paperback books to campers, the museum by reading books aloud to kids, the Lights on the River organization by providing a holiday display, and the school by actively participating in and promoting the FROGS program for young readers.

The library provided computer access for 1,200 individuals, many of whom filled out job applications, typed and printed resumes, and worked on homework assignments. Over 600 people accessed the wireless network with laptops and other mobile devices.

The library circulated 6,000 books, 2,000 DVDs, 900 magazines, 200 miscellaneous items, and 1,100 electronic materials for a grand total of 10,221 items. Circulation was evenly split between items geared toward children and adults.

The library houses 19,000 physical items that may be borrowed with a library card, plus 6,300 downloadable ebooks accessible through the North Country Library System’s Overdrive collection.

The Hepburn Library of Lisbon is open twenty-five hours per week: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Wednesday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, and Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

The library’s Board of Trustees includes Barbara Shoemaker, David Walker, Angela Martin, Maria Rockhill, and Carroll Roy. The Board meets most months on the second Monday at 6:00 pm.

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She began working at the library in 2009 and has been the the Director since 2010. Other staff include Malcolm Casselman as the library assistant and Scott Skiff as the building and grounds caretaker.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

St. Lawrence County libraries offer free
access to


 Did you know your public library offers access to at no charge? Ancestry’s Library Edition is a budget-friendly way to access most of’s collections and databases from within your local library.

Ancestry includes census, vital, church, court, military, and immigration records along with family histories, photos, and maps from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and other areas of the world. The collection contains thousands of databases, over 30,000 record collections, millions of historical photos, and over 11 billion names - all searchable with the click of a mouse. Record collections date all the way back to the 1500’s and include narratives, oral histories, indexes, and abstracts to other online and print resources.

The U.S. collection delivers hundreds of millions of names from sources such as census, birth, death, and marriage records, plus the Social Security Death Index, U.S. border crossing, and trans-ocean ship records. The Military collection provides over 150 million records containing information often not found elsewhere, from the colonial to the modern era. A search of the Multimedia collection produces millions of files ranging from family and gravestone photos to postcards and newsreels.

Ancestry has become a valuable resource in our public libraries for patrons just starting to research family history, or for those looking to expand existing family trees. Stop by any library in the North Country Library System to access our subscription.

The world of genealogical records library patrons can access at no charge is well worth checking out!

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. Her ancestors sailed on the Ship Patience from Germany in the early 1800’s and settled in Western Maryland, where many of them continue to live today.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

St. Lawrence County libraries offer
over 500 continuing education classes


Did you know that your library card gives you access to over 500 Continuing Education classes at no charge? Classes are available online and cover a wide variety of topics to enhance your personal life, expand job-related skills, or boost academic knowledge.

Universal Classes are self-directed with lessons, assignments, exams, discussion boards, and an instructor to help you master the content. Students receive actual grades and, upon successful completion of the course, a certificate and CEUs (Continuing Education Units). Most courses are worth 1.0 to 2.0 CEUs and require ten to twenty hours to complete.

Class offerings for parents, families, and individuals cover a wide spectrum. There are classes on parenting skills, wellness, home improvement, gardening, nutrition, hobbies, and caring for aging parents.

Business owners and employees can benefit from classes on life coaching, bookkeeping, internet marketing, business management, resolving workplace conflicts, and writing effective policy manuals.

Are you heading back to school and need to brush up on forgotten topics? There are classes on math, history, science, writing, and GED test preparation.

With a catalog of over 500 classes, there’s something for almost everyone. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn, for free, in the comfort of your home. If you don’t have an internet connection, no problem - every public library has computers and internet access available at no charge.

Classes are available to anyone with a library card and may be accessed online at - just look for the Universal Class banner on the right hand side of the page. You’ll need to register using your the barcode on the back of your library card. If you don’t have a card, just stop by your local library and sign up - library cards are free and may be used at all public libraries in St. Lawrence County and the rest of the North Country Library System.

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She’s currently enrolled in Soap Making 101 and looking forward to taking a class on SEO Copywriting.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

St. Lawrence County libraries offer
almost 30,000 DVDs to patrons


 Libraries have been lending movies and television episodes for many years and our collections have been growing steadily. Overall, we have 29,840 DVD and Blu-Ray discs available in our St. Lawrence County libraries, plus an additional 40,000 available through interlibrary loan from other libraries in the North Country Library System.

In many libraries, DVDs are very popular - last year NCLS libraries circulated over 178,000 DVD titles to North Country residents. Within St. Lawrence County, our largest collections are in Potsdam, Ogdensburg, Massena, Colton, Canton, and Lisbon.

Our catalog spans the entire history of filmmaking from classic black & white movies all the way up to this week’s newest releases. For adults, we have almost every genre available including comedy, horror, drama, action, thriller, and anime. We have family-friendly theatrical releases along with a wide variety of television characters from Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS, and more. Many of our libraries offer documentary, self-help, exercise, how-to, and other educational titles. We also own many popular television shows including Game of Thrones, NCIS, and Breaking Bad.

If you prefer the Blu-Ray format over DVD, our libraries are expanding our collections to include more titles in high-definition. Lisbon and Ogdensburg have the two largest selections of Blu-Ray discs in St. Lawrence County.

So… how does one borrow from this massive collection? It’s easy! You need a library card from one of the libraries in the North Country Library System. If you don’t have a current library card, just stop by your local library and sign up - library cards are free!

Libraries generally loan DVDs and Blu-Rays for one week, and many libraries lend them at no charge to the patron. Most titles can be shipped through interlibrary loan with an arrival time of a few days to a week. Each library has its own policies regarding DVD loans, so be sure to inquire for details the first time you borrow a disc.

The next time you’re looking for a movie for date night, or something to entertain the kids for a few hours, stop by your local library and browse our video collection. Or, go online to and plug in your search terms - you can search your local library’s collection or see what’s available in all sixty-five libraries in the North Country Library System.

Check out our video collection…you’re sure to find something of interest!

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. Lisbon has 377 Blu-Rays and 1,580 DVDs, including 8 new titles added just this week.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!

St. Lawrence County libraries are gearing up
for the annual Battle of the Books competition!


Battle of the Books is a quiz-style program for young readers in grades 4 through 6. Each team of four children reads twenty books, studies, practices, and competes against other teams to answer questions in a “In what book did…?” format.

Titles are selected annually by a committee of library staff who reads the books and writes questions focusing on the who, what, and where of each book’s story and characters. By the time we are finished, we’ve written over 1,000 questions in preparation for our local and regional battles.

This year, our reading list contains books that focus on all types of interesting people, animals, cultures, and circumstances. We have books about chickens, dogs, foxes, robots, and twins who play sports, go to school, explore new frontiers, make new friends, and deal with family relationships all while coping with loss, growing up, and facing challenges with dyslexia, autism, and discrimination. Whew! That’s a lot of detail to remember, which is why it’s important for everyone to work together as a team to read and study each book prior to the competition.

Kids who are interested should contact their local public library for more information and to sign up. Individual libraries hold local battles (usually late April to early May), and then send their winning team to the regional battle to compete against other libraries from St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, and Oswego counties. This year, the regional battle will be Saturday, May 20 in Gouverneur.

Visit the North Country Library System’s Battle of the Books page at for the 2017 title list and coaches guide. The books for this year’s battle are available on the shelf at many libraries, through interlibrary loan, or downloadable from our Overdrive collection - grab your library card and check one out today!

Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She’s a member of the Battle of the Books committee and is currently reading her seventh title for this year’s competition.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!


St. Lawrence County Libraries
Offer Downloadable eBooks for Free


 Did you know that your local library has almost 6,000 eBooks, audiobooks, and magazines available for download at no cost? All you need is a library card, internet access (also available at the library), and a device capable of accessing the downloadable files.

 Our public libraries share an expansive collection of electronic media that can be accessed via the North Country Library System website or OverDrive app on your smartphone or tablet. We have a wide array of books that appeal to all ages, including mysteries, romances, westerns, cookbooks, self-help books, biographies, and more. New titles are added monthly.

We also have a variety of electronic magazines including popular titles such as Better Homes & Gardens, Discover, and Newsweek.

The OverDrive app is available for Android, Apple, and Windows devices. Various file formats are also available for download and used in conjunction with not only your smartphone or tablet, but stand-alone eReaders such as the Nook, Kobo Reader, or Kindle. Audiobooks can play directly from your device through the bluetooth speakers in your car, making for an entertaining commute to and from work or school.

Did you receive a new tablet or Kindle as a holiday gift? Not sure how to get started with eBooks? It’s easy! If you have a library card, you can access our digital catalog at You just need your library card and PIN numbers to sign in and check out titles for downloading.

 If you don’t have a library card, visit your local library and register for a free card - all you need is photo identification and proof of address. While you’re there, check out all your library has to offer - you’re sure to find something new!

 Michelle McLagan is the Director of the Hepburn Library of Lisbon. She’s an avid reader, and has been known to read an eBook on her iPad, while at the same time listening to an audiobook on her smartphone.

“Check Us Out…” is a column about our St. Lawrence County public libraries. Support your local library!