Every writer has an ingrained love of books.
Most can remember which story hooked them, drew them in, and branded them a reader for life. Many writers also have someone integral to their writing journey. Often it is a parent, grandparent, or best friend who was an avid reader who introduced them to the world of make-believe. For writers, libraries are our second homes. Libraries provide easy and free entry to new worlds, adventures, and new friends both similar and dissimilar to us. As a child, that gateway to lands unknown was a two minute walk from my front door–30 seconds if you raced your brother to ensure you snagged the best reading nook.
The Fort Garry Public Library was my “home library” and it was my sanctuary. My brother and I would spend several week nights hunkered down amongst the stacks, or up in the loft with piles of books, and hours of time before us.
The Fort Garry Library emerged from humble beginnings.
In 1945, thanks to a generous collection of donated books, it found space in the Fort Garry Community Club. By 1956 the collection had grown and was moved to a rent-free room in the Municipal Hall. Within four years the library again required more room and in 1960 the current library was built. It was a brown and orange, flat, cubic shape with an open floor plan; a mid-century Modern masterpiece. This is the library of my childhood.
Much has changed over the past 50 years and the library needed to keep pace with the changing needs of its readers. After an extensive six-month-long renovation, the library reopened and I had the pleasure of speaking with Anne Edwardsson, Fort Garry’s infamous Assistant Branch Head, about the recent improvements.
Anne has been with the Winnipeg Public Library since 1981, shifting back and forth between city branches, always adding her flair for drama and excitement to entice children to read, and drawing heavily on her theatre background. Since 2000, Anne has called Fort Garry home and has visited countless schools, encouraging kids to join the library’s summer reading program. She is wildly successful as she has no qualms dressing up to fit the reading theme of the year. Whether costumed as a spy in trench coat, fedora, and briefcase, or a unitard-wearing super hero with lightning bolt emblazoned flowing cape, she lights students’ imaginations on fire!
It is people like Anne who make libraries come alive for burgeoning readers.
The biggest change to the library’s physical appearance is in the children’s area. Gone are the computers, long desks, and librarian station. In its place is a world of interaction and creativity in a space that encourages families to stay longer and learn more. Now the community room has doubled in size and a Literacy Play Centre has been installed, with interchangeable play boards that meet the needs of children of all ages. For the staff it was a huge improvement as it frees up time to specialize, work more effectively, and directs all inquiries to a central hub.
The library of the future includes not only the current and changing collection of paper books, but the “unseen collection” of eBooks, magazines, databases of consumer report materials, and Tumble Books. Now entire magazine subscriptions can be downloaded through Zinio, and movies and TV shows through Hoopla. All you need is a library card!
“The Library is not a museum, or an archival institution. We are not fixed in the past. We need to update our materials and change with our readers.” – Anne Edwardsson.
And they’re not done yet! Still to come are further updates to the loft to include a “bring your own device” (BYOD) counter and lounge space for teens to come study, work on projects, or merely hang out. The library has a long-established Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) and with membership, teens can earn volunteer credits towards high school graduation. The YAC has been given the green light to fully design the annex under the loft stairs as they see fit. Exciting times, indeed.
Fort Garry Library continues to grow beyond its brick and mortar walls into our community, our schools, and our festivals, to engage children in reading and enrich their experiences before they enter the front doors.
What will be the next brain child of Anne and her team at Fort Garry? Will it be an art, photography, or short story writing contest? Possibly. Will there be another “I Spy” contest in the display case? Likely. Will Anne be in costume? Most definitely.
You don’t have to live in Fort Garry, Winnipeg, or even Manitoba to join in the Fort Garry Library’s summer reading program! It’s available Canada-wide and sponsored by TD Canada Trust.
And remember, peeps, an hour with a book is never an hour wasted.