This post came to Rochester Love Notes in belated recognition of Valentine's Day.

From Lawrence Jones of Rochester:

"I've been meaning to send a love note to Rochester for a while.  A Valentine's Day prompt at the Monroe Branch Library finally got me to do it. 

Hope you like it!"


When we moved to Rochester, there were five things that seemed exceptionally cool about living here:

  1. Great old houses at ridiculously low prices by national standards (California, Boston, NYC, DC…)
  2. The Erie Canal towpath, where you and your kids can bicycle without any cars to worry about.
  3. The park system.  No place else can touch the combined quality and quantity of our parks. 
  4. The Public Market on Saturday morning is fun, cheap, healthy and diverse – all good.
  5. The amazing Monroe County Library System, where you can borrow anything free for 1 to 3 weeks.  At Central, they’ll even let you borrow artwork for your walls!

When I made this list back in 1994, the papers raging in a stadium debate.  Yes, papers – amazingly Rochester had two daily newspapers until 1997!  The debate was whether the Red Wings really needed a new stadium? Where is it going to be located?  Who is paying all this?  As an inveterate book lover, I quickly found my way to the beautiful, Art Deco styled Rundel Library building, nestled along the east bank of the Genesee River.  There I found that another public works project was in the planning stages: a massive expansion of the Central Library collection into a new four story building directly across the street.  There would be two big libraries – connected by a tunnel underneath South Avenue!  What struck me as a newcomer was that there was no debate about expanding the downtown library.  No raging editorials about whether it was really needed or hand-wringing about who was going to pay for it.  The unspoken message: of course it was needed and it was a good community investment.  As a fan of both books and baseball, this said a lot about my new home.


Looking back at my list of the five things I initially loved about Rochester, buyers still get more house for their money here than most anywhere else in the United States.  I’m embarrassed that I don’t use the Public Market, Towpath or the amazing park system more often – they’re all still great.  And the library?  No embarrassment there, as I use it every single week!  I can’t imagine living here without it. 



When I moved to Rochester, the library system just blew me away. It is so awesome that one card gives you lending privileges in over 30 libraries, all over Monroe County!  Even better, these 30 electronic catalogs are automatically searched together.  It is perhaps our very best example of the city, the suburbs, the towns and  villages all working together toward the public good, in a seamless fashion. 


In 2013, I visited a great bookstore in Cambridge, Mass.  I bought a couple of books and then wrote down the titles of 16 others that looked interesting.  When I returned to Rochester, I looked up all 18 of them in the catalog: the Monroe County Public Library system owned 15 of the 18.  That’s an impressive 83%!  The Monroe County Library System rocks!  We’re all stronger together than we are separately. 



One great thing about the Monroe Branch, is that there isn’t a children’s section or a children’s room: they have a whole FLOOR!  The whole lower level is for kids, complete with its own entrance.  Kids don’t have to worry much about making too much noise at the library or wandering where they shouldn’t. 


Mary Claire, Cherin and company are just great people.  They are the kind of people who, if they found your wallet and it looked a bit thin, they add cash of their own before returning it. They are also great library people.  As one example, some branches have gotten rid of older, quality children’s books due to wear and tear.  At Monroe they tend to patch them up because they know they’re irreplaceable.  And that is what the library is: irreplaceable.  I feel so very fortunate to have access to this amazing resource.