It's always the first thing I do when I move to a new area. I've done a lot of that lately, so I actually have five right now: Buffalo and Erie County; Southern Adirondacks Library System; Mid-York Library System; Stockbridge Free Library and Plattsburgh City Library. It's kind of reassuring to know that I can go virtually anywhere in upstate and check out a book if I need to.
I don't know which one was my favorite. Plattsburgh was definitely my least favorite: funny hours, witchy staff, an aging, unimpressive collection, and high late fees. The "systems" had a pretty wide range. One of the ones in the Mid-York System is open three days a week and seriously looks like they haven't gotten any new books since the 1960s. But another one, less than 15 miles away, is housed in a brand-new building and is adding on. I went there on a Sunday and it was as hectic as Barnes & Noble is on the weekend!
The Buffalo system has long been respected as the Cadillac of library systems, but is starting to flag as the county faces financial difficulties. Last year, they closed several branches permanently, including the one my cousin's girlfriend worked at. I love the downtown branch's collection. They have a good local history section, and a good special collection, as well as every regular book you could want. But it's not very user-friendly. It's quite large and hard to find staff, and since they keep many books in storage, you need the staff. There's also no place to park -- I've gotten a ticket every single time I've been down there.
In terms of total experience, Stockbridge leads the pack. For a small library, they do an excellent job of keeping their collections up to date and offering flexible hours. Parking was an issue the few times I was unfortunate enough to have to drive there, but then again, parking is an issue everywhere in town. The staff was friendly and the interior of the library is very light and peaceful. The only bad thing is that they don't link to anyone else. If you want a book and they don't have it, you have to drive to Pittsfield.
How many cards do you have, readers, and which library is your favorite?