The Nelson Public Library’s board of directors. Back row, L-R: Lauren Rethroet, Tessa Bendig, Keith Page (City Council Rep.), Dale Butterfield, Karen Shoniker. Front Row: Anni Holtby (Chair), Michelle Sylvest (Vice-Chair), Stacy O’Brien, Laurie Langille. Photo: Submitted

The Nelson Public Library’s board of directors. Back row, L-R: Lauren Rethroet, Tessa Bendig, Keith Page (City Council Rep.), Dale Butterfield, Karen Shoniker. Front Row: Anni Holtby (Chair), Michelle Sylvest (Vice-Chair), Stacy O’Brien, Laurie Langille. Photo: Submitted

CHECK THIS OUT: A year of COVID-19 at the Nelson Public Library

Chair Anni Holtby writes about the library’s operations during the pandemic

By Anni Holtby

Nelson Public Library

I don’t need to tell anyone that the past year has been a challenge. At the library, COVID-19 stretched policy, service and staffing limits. Though many procedures will be eliminated when public health orders are lifted, the strength and resiliency we gained during the pandemic, and many of the new services and procedures developed, will remain.

Although it was a challenging year, we were still busy! Check out our Annual Report to read some amazing stats and stories how our wonderful staff rose to the challenges and impressively, turned those into opportunities for innovative services. (You can pick up your copy at the library or on our website.)

We know many of you miss the pre-COVID library. Around the Zoom board table, we miss it too. However, this hasn’t stopped us from diving into discussion on the impacts that our library plays in our community. We’ve challenged ourselves, exploring the serious role the library plays in reducing social isolation, levelling out the digital divide, and helping to build a healthy community.

As stewards, we recognize that the library is more than a warehouse of books. It is a unique social infrastructure that believes in enabling all people to learn, read and share ideas in an atmosphere of intellectual freedom and universal access to information. It is from this stance that our conversations are often held through the lens of equity, inclusion, and concerns such as the impacts of the climate crisis.

By asking tough questions, the board has become more purposeful as stewards of our library resources. We continue to advocate for sustainable provincial funding to support the expectations that you, our library users, are asking for: quiet spaces and meeting spaces, digital and physical collections, new initiatives and maintaining existing services.

In 2020, our library celebrated its centenary. A hundred years ago, mayor and council had the foresight to establish the Nelson Municipal Library under the Provincial Library Act. Being a municipal library meant sustainable funding and support, cementing it as an important city service.

This support continues today, as our local government has provided inflationary increases to the library’s operational budget in recognition of the value of the public library in our community. Areas F and H continue to provide funding as well, for which we are grateful.

Despite the challenges it presented, 2020 did end on a note of excitement: the City of Nelson submitted a provincial infrastructure grant for a new community multi-use library facility. If successful, the new facility would fulfill many of the community’s expectations conveyed in previous public consultations.

As a library board, we are always here to listen. Stay tuned for your opportunity to provide input into how your library can best serve you in the upcoming years.

We are optimistic that there is an end to this pandemic in the near future. There are brighter skies ahead of us.

Anni Holtby is the chair of the Nelson Public Library board.

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