October is Canadian Library Month. It’s our time to shine, to raise awareness for the valuable role libraries play in our communities.
At Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL), we’re celebrating with a library-themed contest. Customers can enter to win a set of three books plus FVRL swag. FVRL is also launching a new video this month featuring a behind-the-scenes look into everything that goes on to get books, movies, ukuleles and more to you.
In the spirit of this video, I thought I’d share a bit of the behind-the-scenes at the George Mackie Library, a few “did you knows?” to paint a picture of the important work happening not only here in North Delta, but in public libraries across Canada.
Mornings begin about an hour before opening. Staff get the service desk ready for the day ahead, pack and unpack hundreds of books, DVDs, and other items being sent to and from locations both near (Ladner) and far (Boston Bar). We process newspapers, photocopy crosswords, turn on computers, empty book bins, and prepare for whatever the day brings.
We usually start weekdays with a children’s literacy program: Parent and Child Mother Goose, Storytime or Babytime. Afternoons bring a variety of activities ranging from traditional (and non-traditional) book clubs to social activities like Knit ‘N’ Stitch (drop-in knitting club) and Lego Club. Evenings vary from Teen Pizza and Games nights to Poetry Night in Punjabi. Throughout the year we invite special guests and community partners to present on important topics as well. Library programs are free, for all ages, and ever changing.
At times we are bustling with staff and customers — a lively space of children’s chatter, students studying and visitors of all ages coming and going. Gone are the days of “hushing,” as libraries now play a role in the social fabric of our communities, a place that invites conversation and discussion. Sometimes, though, we do channel days gone by – a space of quiet and solitary reading. We are a place to read, learn and play.
There are times when we are overwhelmed by boxes and boxes of material, overflowing with returns and items we’ve brought in for you from other locations — a reminder that, yes, people do still read and no, e-books have not taken over. We see not only books now but telescopes, ukuleles and robotic balls through our checkouts. On Fridays, we see a steady string of visitors picking up movies. And on Monday, a rush of returns.
Our jobs are first and foremost customer service, defined by the people we meet: victims of a local fire seeking community resources, new immigrants scanning and preparing documents for applications and jobs, parents seeking support resources, grandparents with their grandchildren hunting for picture books, and youth in alternative school programs working hard to overcome life’s adversities. We are a diverse staff from many different educational and life backgrounds. And we’re here to help.
We end our days by replenishing and resetting for the next day. Staff are always learning something new — new technologies, new procedures, new services. Public libraries are not static or stuffy; we’re vibrant and fast-paced. If you haven’t been to a public library in a while, you’ll be pleasantly surprised what we have to offer.
The greatest compliment you can give us this month? Stop by and get a library card. You’ll be glad you did.
Marisa Tutt is a librarian based at the George Mackie Library in North Delta.