Anne DeGrace is retiring after 32 years at the Nelson Library.

COLUMN: In which we say so long, but not goodbye

Anne DeGrace retires and signs off after 219 library columns for the Nelson Star

By Anne DeGrace

It’s always been about the books.

As a child it was The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward, which told me I could be anything I wanted if I embraced courage and compassion.

In my teens I devoured The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and learned that social status and integrity are not mutually exclusive, and that kindness is possible anywhere.

I’ve read Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger a dozen times. Franny’s existential crisis, the quiet concern of her eccentric family, and those big questions and elusive answers all pointed to a foundational trust in humanity.

Books I have loved — and there have been so many — have made me laugh, cry, and think. They have been my mirror and my window.

I have often thought it so appropriate that bibliophiles and the subjects of their enthusiasm would have the same word at their core. It’s our spines, after all, that keep us upright physically and honest metaphorically.

As a young fledgling, libraries and bookstores were my haunts. Wherever books were at home, so was I. So when I arrived in Nelson in challenging personal circumstances, becoming a used-book seller was a way to keep the wolf from the door while drawing books around me like a blanket.

Imagine my joy when, at age 27, I was hired for an on-call position at the Nelson Public Library. I felt I had landed among friends, in all their various spines. I have been privileged to be among exceptional colleagues and kindred booklovers.

It’s been a remarkable journey these 32 years, with changes in technology, scope, and even culture — and in me as well.

In 1987, librarians were primarily keepers of books and story-time leaders; now, we are ambassadors of lifelong learning, culture, and community.

Then, computers were processing machines, printers were dot matrix, and our first public computer freaked at least a few of us out: what were those kids playing? Now, our public computers are nearly always full, our Wi-Fi is available to all, we help the technologically-baffled find their way, and we’re poised to offer a digital makerspace this spring.

Throughout it all we have been a place that brings people together, fosters friendships, and builds community. That hasn’t changed; it’s just become moreso.

Today is my last day. I’m retiring after 32 years at the Nelson Public Library. Naturally, it’s making me reflective. So here’s what I’ve come to know:

Yes, it’s been about the books — and with that, language and literacy and lifelong learning — but more than that, it’s been about the people. It’s been every face that has come to the library with a smile and a purpose.

You might have come in excited to read the new Louise Penny mystery; you might have been a traveller, anxious to connect with people back home; perhaps you brought your wee one to storytime or came with your friends to celebrate the launch of a new book by a local author. Maybe you had your question answered, leaving with new knowledge tucked under your arm or in your head.

Every time someone would leave the library a little happier — a problem solved, a wish fulfilled, a friendly conversation enjoyed, a book in hand — it made me happier, too. That’s quite a gift.

So thank you for being that gift. We would not have books without the people who read them, and we would not have community without the people who make it so, and that’s you: with your courage and compassion, your integrity, your kindness, and your trust in yourselves and in one another.

You’ve been my mirror and my window, and for that I am hugely grateful.

Anne DeGrace has been the adult services co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. This is her last column, and her 219th for the Star. Check This Out will continue every other week with library columnist Avi Silberstein.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cottonwood Lake Society announces $15,000 in new funding

The Nelson Rod and Gun Club and Royal Bank of Canada have chipped in

L.V. Rogers Bombers finish second in Osoyoos basketball tournament

The seniors boys team came undone late in the final

LETTER: Gone to pot(holes)

From reader R. Johnson

Nelson’s Bank of Montreal branch re-opens after pipeline sit-in

Wet’suwet’en supporters left the bank over the weekend

Nelson and RDCK both eyeing waste wood to produce energy

Nelson’s five-year-old business plan will resurface at council table this summer

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5M for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

Police narrow down timeline in death of woman in West Kootenay

West Kootenay Traffic Services and BC Coroners Service working on the case

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Most Read