Anni Holtby, chair of the Nelson library board. Photo submitted

COLUMN: Preparing to bring back the library buzz

Nelson library board chair Anni Holtby discusses plans to expand services

By Anni Holtby

It has been strange and eerily quiet walking by our library on Stanley Street the past couple of months. We miss the buzz inside the library.

Thankfully diverse services have continued, thanks to the resiliency, creativity and energy of our amazing staff, who have stepped up to offer various online services. But we know that people are missing walking through the door. Our library is much more than books — it is a shared space to gather. Our library matters.

Our library board book club has been discussing Palaces for the People, by Eric Klinenberg.

One takeaway so far is verifying the importance of libraries, along with recreation centres, childcare centres, faith buildings, and rural community halls, as spaces where crucial connections are made. These shared spaces serve to bridge divides. Klineberg shares examples of how robust “social infrastructure” are helping to solve some of our pressing inter-related societal challenges such as increasing inequality, poverty, and adapting to the climate crisis.

Our library is celebrating its centenary this year. In 1919, the world was experiencing a pandemic. Who’d have thought, 100 years later, we’d be facing similar concerns? Our social infrastructure is crucial during and after disasters. Our library users increased during the summer of 2018 when wildfires curbed our ability to be outdoors and we could safely be inside the library. Today the online use of the library has increased as we turn to virtual learning, writing, and conversations to help us get through times of self-isolation.

How does it feel to oversee a wonderful facility when our doors are closed? Leading in times of crisis takes a mindset of calm and resiliency. I am grateful for the boards before us that created sound policies for decision making. Our library director, Tracey, her staff, and the board are creating a road map for how to safely reintroduce services. We are adjusting our strategic priorities to fit with the times.

With the recent cautious go-ahead from BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, to expand our bubbles, I notice more activities on Nelson’s streets these days — two meters apart. With guidance from the B.C. Restart Plan and WorkSafeBC, one priority remains the same — the best way we can serve our community now is to help contain the COVID-19 virus, especially as our patrons include many seniors and others that are considered high risk. We are working with the city and regional district and being very mindful of public and staff safety.

Meanwhile, check out the new Library Takeout @ NPL to provide physical items to complement our online offerings to the community during this crucial time. This is a call/click and collect service where you can submit orders for library materials, have orders fulfilled by library staff, and pick up takeout orders. It will be good to see you at the kiosk on Victoria Street!

Help us give our awesome library staff kudos for being creative and leading initiatives to take on new challenges. We look forward to the time when we can open the doors wide again; to rebuild a new way of sharing our facility with you.

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

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