Libraries are a place of sanctuary

I have written about libraries a few times in my last 524 columns, 385 of which have been printed here. But who’s counting? I guess I am.
Libraries are the past and the future, and everything in between.
I was at the Kentville Public Library one morning last week, doing some writing while my car was being repaired, hoping the bill will match the small amount I budgeted for–money I set aside for such annoying distractions as car repairs and tooth decay.
I would much rather spend my money on running shoes and new pens and pencil sharpeners.
The Kentville Library falls very near or at the bottom of the list of priorities for the local municipal government here, and I fear this is a common stance taken by many municipal governments, as though gathering places for learning, for sharing, for exploring don’t measure up when compared to roads and salaries and ice surfaces.
But a library goes quietly about its job of building community, of keeping its residents engaged and belonging, and being a place of sanctuary for anyone and everyone.
This particular library has found a new home in a vacant former United Church, built in 1914, after the hard work of an enthusiastic, committed, and taking-no-prisoners “Friends of the Kentville Library” committee.
The transformation of the space is quite remarkable as I sit here in what must once have been the chancel, at a table big enough for me to spread my various writing implements and paraphernalia on.
Not to change the subject but I don’t think the second ‘R’ has any business in the word paraphernalia. It just makes it harder to spell and pronounce. I wanted to make that point, though seemingly unimportant (I digress).
From the desk I was supposed to be writing at, I watched the comings and goings of library patrons–patrons that were of every size and shape, age and colour. The majority of the book borrowers this particular morning were middle-aged men, retired I’m guessing, and I’m not sure why but that surprised me.
Extensive studies have been carried out around the world as to the value of a library to its community. The consensus is that the library, in essence, is its own community within a community as it caters to all ages with a wide range of services and activities.
Ontario has the most public libraries in Canada by a wide margin, though the exact number can’t be easily stated without breaking it down into library systems. Nunavut, by the way, has the fewest.
“72.5 million people, on average, visit libraries every year.” So reported Fred Glum of The Globe & Mail in 2017. The article went on to say, “That is 12 million more than the North American attendance for the NHL, NBA, and NFL combined.”
I think that’s good news. One of the reasons is the use of a library is free, and you can go anywhere in the world you so choose and read about anything that is wiggling in your curiosity.
To sit in the stands at a professional sports game just isn’t within reach for most Canadian families, sadly, because the very nature of sports is a game and you’d think we all would be welcome to watch.
I have visited a lot of libraries in my life, and I have to say the Fort Frances Public Library tops my list. I like it even better than the huge new library in Halifax that is quite inspiring.
The Fort Frances library is such a welcome place and that has a lot to do with the staff, for sure. But when I walk through those doors, I feel a sense of being at home.
There really is no finer feeling.
wendistewart@live.ca

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