Like many public libraries, Regina has a “Friends of the Library” group. But unlike most libraries, ours sprung up in response to threatened closures of three branches plus our art gallery and our Prairie History Room in 2003. The Friends group played a big role in keeping the threatened locations alive, managing to get more signatures on a petition than people who’d voted in the last civic election! The closure decision was overturned, a large part of the board resigned and the director at the time left RPL.
In less than a decade, RPL has done a 180 – going from threatening to close three branches to having plans to build three new branches in the next few years with the first scheduled to open sometime in spring 2011. (Ironically, it’s one of the ones that was threatened but now being moved into a space that’s 3x larger and connected to a nearby community centre.)
Having succeeded in their initial mission, the Friends group has remained active and continues to work on a number of activities including a book project to celebrate RPL’s 100th Anniversary which should be published next spring.
Today, the group had their AGM and though I didn’t attend, I was able to make it for another event they had after their AGM where various writers who’d contributed essays to the book read sample excerpts. I’d been asked to read an essay I submitted for their book project (I feel the need to clarify because the MC made it sound like I’d just sent them my piece out of the blue! The reality is that I’d been invited to submit by someone working on the book project – honest!)
Anyhow, it was a great event – hearing from various contributors including community members, former and current staff about the impact of various branches, services and the library in general on their life – made me appreciate, even more deeply, the role that the library can play in people’s lives.
I kept thinking back to the presentation I did at the Sask Library Association conference a couple years ago when I looked at the various terms we use in libraries to define the people who use our services – patrons, customers, clients. users. My point was that the term we use is important but the reality is that the people who come to libraries fit a better descriptor “neighbour”. I didn’t get into it too deeply in my presentation but if you extend that analogy to its logical conclusion, that would mean that the people who work in the library are “family”.
True or not, that sentiment was definitely evident at today’s event!
(I agreed to read before realising the event was at the same time as the Riders’ playoff game. I set a tape and then took extreme liberties to avoid hearing the score before I got home – didn’t look at Facebook or Twitter on my iPhone at all while waiting to read. Turning off radio in my car as soon as I got in – had been listening to pre-game driving downtown and really should’ve remembered to turn it off before going in to event. Avoiding the “10 items or less” lane at Safeway during a quick stop after since they had a radio broadcasting the play-by-play – even though I had only four things. I even went the long way out of the store’s far doors so I wouldn’t walk past the radio. Drove home right past stadium but luckily no sign of how it was going. Finally make it home and watch the game. Halfway though, Shea blurts “Oh crap. Now I wish I didn’t check Facebook cause I know who wins.” I thought her reaction meant she saw that the Riders lost. Which made the fact that they won in double-overtime even sweeter! Go Riders!!!)