After a month in my new role as Assistant Chief Librarian at the Powell River library, I’m starting to feel more at ease in my decision to embrace a smaller community. Even though the library system itself is just one branch, compared to Vancouver with its 21 libraries, I sometimes felt isolated as the lone Carnegie Librarian in an emotionally charged, highly active library right at Main & Hastings. It was certainly fulfilling though, and I do miss many aspects of having an immediate connection with the library patrons and this neighbourhood.
Last month a colleague had published a brief interview about my role at the Carnegie called “A Day in the Life” for the BCLA Perspectives journal. It is a regular feature and I was happy to provide some reflections. By the time it came out I had already accepted my new job, but it was still a good process for me to track a typical day since it really was a unique time in my life. I’m just ready to embrace a change of pace.
In contrast, here at Powell River I’m in direct contact with my peers, in particular my fantastic boss. I have also really enjoyed the company and vision of the Children and Teen librarians, planning programs and reviewing goals. They seem personable, fun and motivated, and the staff as a whole seem pretty aligned. Just as I got to know my patrons at the Carnegie over lunch in the cafeteria, I’ve found that small talk in the lunch room or an after-work drink at the local brewery Townsite to be a productive way to build trust. I really hope that these relationships will continue to grow.
The teen librarian, Megan Cole was the editor behind the fantastic cookbook, Water & Wood which I have purchased five copies for family! It is a super local cookbook with a beautiful layout and produce that can be found in the area, as well as history (ie. the rum runners from Texada island during the U.S. prohibition!), and famous recipes from homesteaders about town.
I’m also grateful that my boss makes decisive actions towards following through with the recommendations for Truth & Reconciliation. We both attended the celebration at the Tla’amin Nation of their second year as an independent self-governing nation. The highlight was hanging out with Ivan Rosypskye, as he gave a casual demo making a woven cedar strip hat, and spoke about the process of being adopted by the Tla’amin people, as he originally comes from Bella Bella. He has also been commissioned to carve and collaborate with the School District, in making welcome totem poles for all the schools.
A few of the individuals present at the celebration, including Devin Pielle joined the library staff the following week during our staff training day. We were part of a workshop called the blanket exercise, that was an interactive experience touching on the impact of colonialism in the region, Residential schooling and on-going barriers for First Nations peoples. Afterwards we had a round circle, sharing with each other our thoughts, including an Elder who would later brush us off with cedar. He hadn’t intended to participate in the sharing part. It was absolutely heart-breaking to listen as he wept, and I wish for healing for him and his community.
The rest of our staff training day included an update of our Security manual, and a presentation by Martyn of the Community Resource Centre, showcasing all the awesome work they do to support the poor and marginalized in Powell River. I think everyone at the library was encouraged to hear of who they could refer folks to in times of need.
Recently, there was an editorial in the local paper – the PR Peak that really resonated! It was a simple article called, “Healthy Living: Library provides welcome connection” by Robert Skender. Skender clearly expressed Johann Hari’s research about how the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but rather connection, and how the library is such an ideal place to support a connected community (free, welcoming, inclusive!). It was really encouraging to know that there are like-minded people here discussing issues so close to my heart.
I’ll definitely be purchasing Hari’s new book, Lost Connections for our collection!