Summer programs for all ages return to the Fort Frances library

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

With the help form some dedicated young minds, summer programming at the Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre is coming back in full swing.

With the province’s recent move to Step 3 of its reopening plan, the library has re-opened in a limited capacity, which means that programming can get back underway. Helming the slate of programming across all ages this summer are Hallee Nugent, who is looking after children’s programming, Joelle Bruyere, who will be in charge of adult and senior programming, and Kaylen Cunningham, a fixture at the library for the past few years who will be tackling some programs that are more-technologically oriented.

The children’s section at the library, like in its previous incarnation on Church Street, has always been a popular destination, especially in the summer. Nugent said that plans are in place this year to continue that trend, owing to the return of a popular summer reading program, but she’s also looking to expand some of those programs with a new language option.

“I’m running a few programs this summer, including the TD Summer Reading program, which we do every summer,” Nugent said.

“It’s where you can read books and win prizes, but I’m offering it in french too this summer, since I have bilingualism, just so that we can get french back into the community. It is really crucial, especially if kids decide to go to Ottawa to do university or move around the country.”

Nugent said she’s also using her passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics to create a summer STEM program for kids to learn more about STEM related fields and further their interests.

“I really want to go into science when I’m older, so I thought that getting science into kids’ lives early is really important,” she explained.

“Each week we do a different project that’s based on one of the sciences or a technology. We did mathematics for the first week.”

Nugent is also continuing the craft club program that was started last year and gives children and teens the opportunity to pick up kits from the library and follow along with YouTube videos bringing them through a complete craft project each week.

Meanwhile, Bruyere said she’s been planning events that will not only give adults and seniors in town activities to do, but also spaces where they can safely socialize after a long period of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Bruyere said she’s especially hoping that seniors who have not been able to see their friends or families for the past year will be able to interact with others at the library now that restrictions are beginning to loosen.

Bruyere said she’s planning to have an art studio of sorts set up that will allow interested patrons to come in and create a fun craft to pass the time and create a personalized keepsake. However, not all of Bruyere’s ideas will keep people in the library, much to the delight of their stomachs.

“On Wednesday, I have a segment on our YouTube channel called ‘Book Bites’ where we take recipes from the library’s cookbooks and we make how-to videos,” she said.

“So it’s kind of like showing seniors and adults healthy options because we have more time at home, so we might as well up the supper game.”

In order to help people of all ages advance their technological aptitude, Cunningham will be providing one-on-one help for those who are wanting to learn more about using their electronic devices, in addition to other informative programs.

“People can book appointments and we’ll cover anything from just basic functions on a phone or laptop,” Cunningham said.

“If they have any problems with their device they can come in for an hour and we can sit down and figure things out. I’m also planning some upcoming events, I’m thinking of doing a teen tech bootcamp, which will be pretty fun and will be about learning editing programs and very creative websites and programs on the computer.”

The fact that all three of these program leaders are working at the library means there’s plenty of room for collaboration as well. Cunningham and Bruyere said they are currently planning to work together to help seniors in the community, especially as they may have a weaker understanding of their personal electronics than their grandkids do. There have also been digital leaps in the world of libraries that the pair want to get the community more active in utilizing.

“We really want to get seniors into basic things,” Cunningham said.

“And adding on to that, there’s a lot more variety now for digital library services, so we’re hoping to get the public more interested in things like e-books, audiobooks and digital borrowing.”

Kaylen Cunningham, left, Hallee Nugent and Joelle Bruyere are in charge of programming at the library this summer. The three are planning and coordinating different programs across all age groups and aim to have something for everyone, including the TD Summer Reading program, Book Bites for healthy recipes, and one-on-one technology sessions for those who want to learn more about their electronic devices. –Ken Kellar photo

It’s clear that each of the program heads at the library see the space as much more than just a place to get the latest non-fiction, with the library filling a very important role in the community as a place to gather, learn and grow, as well as to meet with others and socialize. Coming out of the pandemic, all three of them noted how exciting it was to have the public begin to come back into the library on a regular basis, that there are lessons to be learned from a difficult time, and that library programming can help to set people of all ages up for success in unexpected ways.

“It’s just so nice to see everything open up,” Cunningham said.,

“I’m really hoping our experience last year with a lot of online programming continues into almost a hybrid between physical and online programming. Now that we’re proficient with it, I feel like we can reach more audiences than before.”

“I’m running the french program, which is really important in my life because my family comes from Quebec, so I have to speak french with my family,” Nugent added.

“We travel a lot to Toronto and Ottawa because we have family down there too. When you go into the mall it’s almost like you have to speak both languages, because everyone there does, and in Fort Frances, where we’re so isolated, if you don’t have that capability when you leave our bubble, it can be very overwhelming for kids, so it’s good to start them out early.”

“I know this past year was especially difficult for seniors in our community,” Bruyere continued.

“I know my grandma got lonely and we had to have a lot of phone calls because we couldn’t see her as often. I think it’s just really important that we’re able to have some sort of program where they can have a space to come out, see other people, and socialize. I think it’s really important that we can provide services where they can be able to experience seeing other people and do new things.”

Currently the Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre is open Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., Wednesdays from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Head to the library’s Facebook and YouTube pages for more information and videos from their summer programs.