“A library is always needed by someone!”
I’ve dedicated 31 years of my life to being a library technician at Marystown Memorial Library in Newfoundland. I’ve been passionate about libraries from a young age, and in 1992, I felt incredibly lucky to join the library staff when the librarian of the time decided to retire. Our library, nestled within Sacred Heart Academy Elementary School, serves as both a school and public library. I love welcoming the students and working in a joint service library.
My daily tasks revolve around managing book checkouts, tidying shelves, and cataloging our collection. I’m also in charge of monthly and daily statistical reports that are tied to the library’s funding. I oversee interlibrary loans that are mailed to us, enabling library visitors to borrow any book from any library within and beyond the province. Furthermore, I assist patrons with photocopying, faxing, scanning, and I host community groups and organize storytimes. Greeting and helping people is at the heart of my work and I cherish the sense of ownership that comes with managing my own library.
The notion of a silent library has evolved since my childhood. The days when we’d ask you to be quiet if you were too loud are long gone. The hushed atmosphere has made way for a vibrant, bustling environment. Nowadays, our library accommodates classes, providing students the freedom to talk to their peers and teachers. We’ve adapted to modern learning needs.
Our library is also a cornerstone of the community. It’s a gathering spot for book enthusiasts and those seeking free internet access. For some patrons, it’s an essential lifeline. For instance, there’s a person who rides a paddle bike to the library solely to use the internet. Others come to access technology they may not have at home, such as a computer, a printer, a scanner, or a fax machine. Parents often drop by to read to their children, fostering a love of books from a young age.
In 2016, Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries (NLPL) announced the closing of 54 of the province’s 95 public libraries in response to severe budget cuts, putting 64 library workers at risk of losing their jobs. Libraries in large cities were slated to stay open, while those in schools and small rural communities were to be shuttered. It was a challenging time, but my local took action and fought back.
After two years of tireless effort, we won, and the government announced that all libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador would remain open. Libraries play a vital role and if they were to close and their staff was to disappear, people would lose access to so many valuable resources.
Yet, despite our victory in 2018, the looming risk of our library shutting down is ever-present. Housed within a school, the library could potentially be repurposed if the school needed more classrooms. Finding an alternate location to house the library would be very difficult, given the limited available space in our town.
Budget cuts have also impacted our library in other ways. For one, I work 26 hours a week, and that has never changed since I started in my role in 1992, despite the community’s evolving needs. Financial constraints have also impacted the number of books I can buy, have led to the cancellation of many magazine subscriptions, and have hindered our ability to modernize our technology.
Increased funding from the province would not only provide me with more hours of work, but would also enhance book acquisitions and technological resources. The provincial government must maintain its support for libraries, recognize their importance to our communities and keep them open. A library is always needed by someone!
Sometimes, it’s seemingly small things I do as a library worker that have a significant impact on those seeking assistance. That happened when, five years ago, an elderly couple visited the library to obtain help with applying for a fishing license. They were struggling to do it at home and, even though they live outside of Marystown, they made their way to the library to see if we could help. I encountered some challenges in the process, but I was successful in submitting the application for their license. In a heartfelt display of gratitude, the woman gave me a hug and returned the next day to bring me coffee and a muffin.
This gesture marked the beginning of a new kind of friendship: every year, the couple returns to the library with coffee and a treat to have me – and only me – renew their fishing license. Their unwavering thoughtfulness makes me feel valued, with or without the treats.