A Welcoming Space
Public libraries are a lot like the tardis in Dr. Who. They are more complex from what they appear to be. Similar to the tardis which is seemingly a blue police call box in the science fiction tv series, libraries seem to be books on the shelf or merely “bricks and mortar libraries” as Saskatchewan Education Minister Don Morgan recently called them. The parallel is uncanny as libraries reveal themselves to be an engine delivering community programs, as the tardis reveals itself to be the engine propelling Dr. Who into his travels.
“We think as a province we should be getting out of bricks and mortar libraries and people should be focusing on electronic or alternate media,” Morgan said.
Morgan also commented,
A library may not be a place that should be used as a sanctuary.
(Both assertions from “Provincial budget sees cuts to Regina libraries, U of R funding”
by Christina Dao at
The term sanctuary is defined as a safe place or a refuge. In a way, the library can be a transformative space as it is a public space, but not public like the street is. The library is not a a private space like my home is, where I make the rules. The exciting thing is the library can be a welcoming, transformative space as patrons are reading, exploring and learning each individually but collectively as a group too. We lack places, like the library, in civic life that enrich people’s lives.
You might say what is the big deal as you can go to the coffee shop or stay at home. But both those places are not the same as the library, where you will rub shoulders with people that you may not interact with. And for many towns in Saskatchewan, the library and a few other services may constitute the town. See a blog post in Sources for an opinion piece on how libraries fit into small town life.
(Full disclosure that I had an insider’s knowledge of the public library system in Saskatchewan as I was employed by Parkland Regional Library until recently. I have visited all 55 branches in a rural region.)
The majority of the Parkland branches held various community programs through out the year. Many volunteer hours and materials went into bake sales and raffles, often for Saskatchewan Library Week in October. Or it could be tech time for troubleshooting ebooks. There may not be a local theatre so movie nights are popular, as is special speakers on health or travel topics. For the younger set, there are special events, like pizza night or teddy bear sleep overs, as an addition to regular story time. Soon there will be summer reading club as well to engage kids reading beyond the school year. Other community groups will meet there ranging from gamers to genealogical enthusiasts. There is a long list of programs that branches report. Each event is the culmination of planning, implementing as well as paid and unpaid labour to pull off a successful community program.
One of my favourites, because it combines food and books, is hosted by Foam Lake public library. In a town with 1,148 population in 2011, the public library has hosted an English tea complete with fine china. They also held an intergenerational book reading in which older adults and teenagers read selections from their favourite books. It was a great way to promote literacy, share reading and overall build social capital.
On a personal note, the library welcomes newcomers. When I move to a new town, part of the routine is to suss out where my local library is and sign up for a card. Along with borrowing materials in many formats like magazines or DVDs, I have another reason to visit the library. I make sure to spend time reading the community board full of posters promoting upcoming events, fundraisers, or other activities that may interest me.
Lastly as a library patron of four public library systems, I applaud those who developed the successful efficient resource-sharing model in delivering library service to those who lived in cities as well as rural areas of Saskatchewan. It shocks and saddens me in equal measure that the One Card, One Province system has been been effectively decimated by severe budget cutbacks.
Libraries appear to be a book warehouse to the untutored, but upon closer examination they support all people in rural areas through delivering community programs in many sizes and shapes.
Another perspective on libraries in Saskatchewan towns:
http://headtale.com/2017/04/17/skpoli-savesklibraries-music-monday-educated-in-a-small-towntaught-the-fear-of-jesus-in-a-small-townused-to-daydream-in-that-small-townanother-boring-rBudget-Cuts-FAQsFact sheet – What’s being saidomantic-thats-me/
Read more about how active public libraries are in Saskatchewan countering rheotoric and misconceptions.
Ontario report on libraries:
Filed under: Advocacy, Public library, Saskatchewan budget cuts, Uncategorized | 1 Comment