Re-thinking libraries 0
Depending on what day or time you walk through the doors at the Hastings Highlands Public Library in Maynooth you will find peace and tranquility or you will walk into one heck of a party.
The team behind the bright, social hub of the Hastings Highlands Public Library has been working to re-think what a library can and should be and more than anything else, this library has become an experience.
When librarian Kim McMunn visited council on Feb. 15 to deliver a brief update she was quick to praise the forward-thinking group in front of her.
"Thanks to this council and the last for a beautiful facility," McMunn said. "If you build it they will come and they have."
But McMunn and her team know, at a very deep level, that it's about more than just a facility. The bricks and mortar help but it's the human energy and how the space is animated that has grown the library into the activity hub that it is today.
"When I was being interviewed for this position I thought, you're not looking for a librarian, you're looking for a cruise director," McMunn said to council. "After six months on the job I'm really enjoying my time here and it's wonderful to work for such a progressive municipality."
Council has taken an active interest in what's happening with the library and they drop in on a regular basis to check out the programming that never seems to stop.
"I leave my pretty shoes under the desk and wear my runners," McMunn confesses.
The library has become a location for inter-generational programs, movies, yoga, Zumba and even safe food handling workshops. A partnership is being developed with the farmer's market and a regional program is in the works for youth at risk. The library meeting room is constantly being used and of course, they still offer books and traditional library services.
Promotion of programs and activities is happening online with the help of social media and McMunn is proud to report over 400 "friends" on Facebook.
"We don't have to spend a lot on advertising," McMunn said.
There has been a 350 per cent increase in library membership and the library itself is a centre of diversity. People don't necessarily come in to check out a book, McMunn explains, they come to check out people and share their stories.
"A library is no longer the quiet space- they're social centres," McMunn explains.
And social time is a big draw for many library users.
Dropping in to the library on Feb. 22 there's a group of women sitting around the fireplace in the library. There are knitting needles, quilting paraphernalia, mugs of tea and lots of chatter.
Marjory McPherson, Marg Wallace, Carol Payne, Lesley Eden and Carol Russell are all hard at work on different projects, helping each other and enjoying a lively discussion while McMunn tops up tea and checks in on her patrons.
"This is a great social time," McPherson says. "It's a chance to meet some new people and learn new skills and the sofas are comfy."
"I just think it's amazing," says Wallace, who is dropping in for the first time. She's come from Bancroft and she is very impressed with the facility and programming.
"This library is different," Eden laughs. "You get to talk."
Deputy Mayor Vivian Bloom drops in to the library and spends a few minutes chatting with the women making their crafts.
"This is not a tomb for people to do research," Bloom says. "There's activity here."
And planned or not, what's happening in Hastings Highlands is what needs to happen in libraries across the province. Libraries now fall under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and without knowing it, the library in Maynooth has become the embodiment of the goals of the Ministry.
When McMunn and Hastings Highlands CAO Craig Davidson attended he Ontario Library Association Super Conference they were constantly reminded how far ahead they were in both thought and in action.
"We are the poster children," Davidson said to council. "We are much more of a community centre and Kim has really embraced what the library can be."
In her report to council McMunn said the conference emphasized the need to get to know your municipality. McMunn said attendees were asked if they knew the name of their Mayor and then they were asked if the Mayor knew their name. McMunn had both locked down.
At the conference Hastings Highlands presented a session on the development of their new facility in Maynooth. They shared the process and left a message with participants about how important it is for all departments of a municipality to work together. The same message, said McMunn, was delivered the next day in a strategic planning session.
The presentation was successful and used this past week when a delegation from Hastings Highlands met with the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport at the Ontario Good Roads Conference in Toronto.
And for council, it's easy to share the success story of what's happening in Maynooth.
McMunn and her dedicated team of Deb Jeffrey the program/volunteer coordinator, Kristin Seaborn the CAP youth worker, Wendy Keating the community program coordinator and Casey Freeman the student assistant do everything from teaching fitness classes to sourcing great reading materials. The team remembers names of patrons, their favourite books, the names of their pets and anything else they can to make visitors feel welcome.
For those interested in checking out people and activities, the Hastings Highlands Public Library posts all their activities on their website and on Facebook. They're offering lots of programming over the March Break including a screening of "The Smurfs" on Friday Mar. 16 at 1p.m.
And no matter how crazy it gets in the library, the team running it are always thinking of what more they can do to reach out to the community that they work to serve.