Creating Community Libraries

The first library I can remember being involved with was set up in an old schoolhouse in my hometown, Fredericton Junction. (It's pictured above in a shot from the 40s, I think.) After it stopped being a school, the village "Recreation Council" used it to house the local girl guide and boy scout troops. It also had a room with a shuffleboard floor and a jukebox, and another room that was lined with shelves holding puzzles, board games and books for children, youths and adults.

The books were a mixed lot: G.A. Henty adventures, Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, Trixi Belden, Zane Grey westerns, Harlequin romances, James A. Michener epics, odd assortments of cookbooks and crafting books published by the Singer Sewing Machine company or Life Magazine. Our family lent the library about a hundred titles. I remember watching them burn from my bedroom window when, in the late 70s, the whole building went up in smoke.

Our village was also visited by a bookmobile, courtesy of the provincial library in Fredericton. (Although we were part of Sunbury county, we fell inside the York library region.) It came once a month, and I remember it felt both more exciting and more alien than our homegrown library. Well, it was a library on a bus - that was pretty mysterious to begin with. And I never knew what titles would be there. But I was pleased as punch the bookmobile showed up. And I was grateful for the community library, even if lots of the books said "Dryden" inside the front cover in my mom's proprietary script.

I think about that now - growing up in a place with a local and a mobile library - because I'm up to my armpits in neighbourhood library creation these days.

This past winter, QLNB has been providing support for the creation and development of three community libraries. The project grew from resident requests for greater access to books and reading support. Well, actually, the library we're helping the ONE Change crew put together came from a misunderstanding.

At the end of last summer's Storytent, during our last tent in the neighbourhood, I was telling parents that they could return un-returned books to the ONE Change office. (ONE Change are one of our partners, and the full-time service group for the locality.) That morphed into one mom telling another, "We'll still be able to borrow books this winter at ONE Change."


The first thing we did was leave 4 boxes of Storytent books at the ONE Change office, just in case. Then we talked with a ONE Change volunteer who said she'd been dreaming of a small, local library, but was unsure how to get it started. That led to a conversation about what their neighbourhood library might look like.

Turns out, it looks like this.

This is one of three libraries we're scaffolding in Saint John's north end. We're supporting local volunteers through conversation and hands-on help. We've presented info on different library models, catalogue systems, etc. We've found money for bookshelves and books, and helped set these up. We've been involved with related neighbourhood library events and promotions. And, as always, we've been documenting the process in order to create efficiencies in our own work and to offer a model - or, at least, a record of our mistakes - for others to build upon.

No comments: