Niagara Gazette

January 15, 2014

GLYNN: Staff shortage takes toll on library collection

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — One of the gems in the Niagara Falls Public Library has been the Local History Department.

It's still unclear what will happen or how long it will remain in limbo in the wake of the recent staff shortage. The employee in charge of the collection retired in 2013 and no replacement was named. As you might expect, it's sort of a budget matter. But it's not time to panic.

Aside from the countless residents who find the third-floor department a rich resource of Niagara area history, it also is a valuable repository of information for researchers and travel writers from around the U.S. and even abroad.

"The closure of that history department is a disgrace," said a livid Paul Gromosiak, a local historian and author of nearly a dozen books on Niagara. 

It's not the first time that the room housing key documents and artifacts from the story of the Falls was shut down. For the past few years, it had been staffed for limited hours and by special arrangements. 

"Why was this allowed to happen?" Gromosiak asked during the public portion of a recent city council meeting."If our future is tourism, our history had better be a part of it because that's what the world wants to know and wants to see."

Library Director Michelle Petrazzoulo is acutely aware of the importance of the local history assets and fully intends to protect and enhance them. In fact, when the current library board approves the funding request, another full-time staffer hired will, like her predecessor, divide the duties between the local history department and the main first-floor operations.

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THE DARK SIDE: Some articles in the special issue of Sports Confidential (The Media Source, 2013) have strong links to the Buffalo-Niagara area. The magazine features more than 100 of the greatest scandals of all time. Topics run the gamut of human frailties: violence, drugs, gambling, sex, cheating, racism and sexism, and political posturing.

Of particular interest to Western New Yorkers, one article focuses on the St. Bonaventure University basketball program, jolted in 2003 when the Atlantic 10 Conference declared that Jamil Terrell, a transfer student, lacked a required associate's degree from Coastal Georgia Community College. In fact, Terrell had only a welder's certificate from the two-year school.

Subsequently, the university botched the issue of Terrell's eligibility and Bona found itself in a mess with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Robert Wickenheiser, the university president, was forced to resign; head basketball coach Jan van Breda Kolff was fired; and Lockport resident Bill Swan, 55, a trustee who tried to guide the school through the scandal, committed suicide.

Also in the scandal roundup is O.J. Simpson, the former star running back with the Buffalo Bills and NFL Hall of Fame member, who was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her companion, Ron Goldman. After nearly eight months of testimony, the jury acquitted Simpson.

Niagara University's outstanding basketball teams in the 1950s were never involved in any way with the point-shaving scandal that scarred college campuses around the nation. One of the worst offenders was the City College of New York with three of its star players arrested for taking bribes and throwing games. When NU's Charlie Hoxie,  leading scorer,was approached by gamblers to shave points, he immediately reported the incident to Coach John (Taps) Gallagher who then summoned the police.

What's shocking about the current issue, there's not a single reference to the Penn State University scandal that involved Jerry Sandusky, the convicted serial child molester, and legendary football coach Joe Paterno, who failed to report what he knew about the ugly incidents.

Several calls to the magazine publisher, seeking an explanation for the glaring omission, were ignored.

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Plain & Simple: Some people don't know their east from their west. 

That was clear from a recent column about business closings (e.g. Brennan's Irish Pub closed indefinitely) in the short block on the east side of Main Street, Youngstown. Ashker's Cafe is closed until March 1. Meanwhile, at The Village Diner on the west side, it's business as usual. "Some people wondered if we're still in business," a waitress said.  

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OVERHEARD: "If (New Jersey) Gov. Chris Christie is forced out of office, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission should hire him as a consultant. After all, imagine having a guy on the staff who can predict traffic jams at the border four days ahead of time" — a customer at Syros Restaurant, Lewiston.

Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.