By John Anderson
The free internet access at the David A. Howe Library, from broadband to wifi, was used in and out of the library during the COVID pandemic. However, when the library was forced to close at one point, the staff made adjustments to help.
Those adjustments were praised by Senate Majority Leader Charles “Chuck” Schumer during a visit to the David A. Howe Library this week. Schumer was in the village to talk about better broadband and high-speed internet access for county residents, especially in rural areas.
Library Director Nic Gunning was pointed out by Schumer for his efforts and Schumer had Gunning speak during a press event.
“Right here at the David A. Howe Library, it reminds us how important broadband is, “Schumer said. “As the pandemic increased dependence on the internet, many residents here in Allegany County would come to the parking lot to log on for work, for school, for health care.”
Turning to Guning, Schumer said, “That was a very, very good thing that you did here.”
Schumer told Guning his wife works for the New York City Public Library and said not just during the pandemic, but at other times, students sit against the library walls and do their homework, another reason better broadband is needed.
Schumer said in Allegany County, it’s estimated 23.5% of households lack sufficient access to high-speed internet, which is 10,800 residents, among the highest in New York.
Gunning talked about the community using the library during the pandemic.
“Fortunately, Wellsville is a community that really knows the value of libraries and that has been proven many times over in the last couple of years,” Gunning said. “As you said Senator, when people needed internet access, they came here. Having people in their cars in the parking lot using the internet, having kids lined up out front .. that happened!
“We move the routers out so people could sit in the front lawn or have access even when we were not here. Public computing infrastructure is so crucial,” he added.
Gunning also talked about the current needs of the library.
“Another issue we have is maintaining the building, which is true of all the libraries in the system. Library building capital funds are crucial. This terrace that we are all standing on is beautiful but it leaks like a sieve,” Gunning said. “So we either have to fix it or start doing boat tours downstairs. It’s so crucial to keep the building maintained.
“All communities need libraries This community needs libraries and all libraries need support,” Gunning added.
Schumer pointed out money for libraries was in a rescue plan in an ARC grant.
“We thank you for that and your support,” Guning added.