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Arts & CultureA day at the Library

A day at the Library

By Jill McCubbin

My Monday work day starts at 9:30 am at the Almonte Branch of the Mississippi Mills Public Library.

I walk to work, and this morning as I approached, I saw about a dozen people working in the garden behind the library — members of the Almonte & District Horticultural Society and others from the community getting the butterfly garden and the rest of the beautiful beds and trees ready for spring.

Library garden and volunteers

On Monday mornings, my tasks start with turning on computers/catalogues (because librarians still answer the phones on mornings when the library doesn’t open until 1 pm), and then I start processing the week’s new books — books for all categories. This morning there were 42 new books to process, which is about the average for a week’s new acquisitions. Most are new, just-published books, a few are “like-new” donations. Generally, I’m working away at these books until about noon.

For the record, the Almonte branch also tries to put out about 6-7 new DVDs each week, and our collection of DVDs (movies & documentaries) has reached 5000+ items. (This data is for the Almonte branch only; the Pakenham branch puts other new books and DVDs into circulation each week, and library patrons can borrow from both libraries.)

The small meeting room at the library is also opened for the weekly Cancer Support Group on Monday mornings. A wonderful volunteer, Jane, runs this program 10-11 am on Mondays for people undergoing cancer treatments and for cancer survivors. She offers coffee/tea and thoughtful, friendly conversation. This morning four people met and stayed for a while longer than the set hour.

At 11:30 am, I answered a phone call from a member of the Almonte Potters Guild. She was hoping to book the large meeting room for the Guild’s AGM in June. I checked the binder and reserved the evening for her. There were the usual other calls this morning too: to renew books, to ask if certain museum passes were in, to find out if printing over wireless or from public access computers is available at the library (answer: yes).

At noon two other librarians arrive for their workday, Berta Madrigal Abaroa and Library CEO Christine Row. Today, just as they arrived, the Ontario Noon CBC radio phone-in began and the topic was: Who cares about libraries? If you missed it and would like to hear it, visit this link:

The Ford Government cut the 2019 provincial budget for Ontario Library Services by 50%, and so community libraries and the essential services they provide have had a lot of media attention this month. Libraries need that budget to continue to offer interlibrary loan services, a 40+ years service, which was recently terminated due to the budget cut.

Before I leave on my lunch break to give my dog a short walk, I get the library ready to open. Each Monday morning, there are a LOT of returns in the book drop. This picture shows an average Monday morning amount, after they’re organized at the desk. I should have taken a picture of the jumble in the drop! After a holiday weekend, the drop (approx 4 square feet)  can be 2/3 full or more.

This morning’s book drop of returns, with much more coming to the desk throughout the day.

At about 12:30 pm on Mondays, the larger meeting room is opened up for Baby Talk, which runs from 1-2 pm. Baby Talk is a weekly drop-in group for parents and babies ages birth to one year. (The Almonte library also offers a staff-run story time (Fridays 10:30–11:00 am) and a baby time (Thursday 9:30–10 am) as well.) This morning’s Baby Talk program is run by the EarlyON Child and Family Centre. Linda, a Public Health Nurse from the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, runs the group. Today, as it was such a beautiful day, Linda ended up hosting the group outside. The group was a bit smaller than average today, likely because the weather was perfect and it was one of our first warm spring days.

I return to the library for 1 pm. Three people were just heading in as Berta opened, they’d been waiting outside. From about 1-4 pm, the library is very busy. Berta and I hardly leave the circulation desk – checking in and checking out materials and answering phones and other enquiries at the desk. At 1:15 pm a senior patron inquired about the possibility of doing an exam at the library using a library computer with a camera. The camera was a requirement of the exam. Yes, this is possible. Tomorrow suited the gentleman and so the small meeting room was reserved, and an hour slot was booked with the library’s Technology Tutor, who will ensure that the computer (laptop) and the camera are set up correctly for the patron.

Aside: The Mississippi Mills Public Library has a technology tutor on staff part-time. Greg works at both the Almonte and Pakenham branches. Library patrons can book hour-long appointments. Greg helps patrons navigate a VERY wide variety of tech issues. Examples: purchasing a new cell phone, learning to save photos to an iPad, setting up Facebook or email accounts, building a website, printing at the library, downloading software applications to enable e-book or e-audiobook use… the list never ends.

Technology tutor information

At 1:40 pm a Lanark support worker arrived with four of her clients. Personal support workers, community services support workers and group home support workers with their various clients of all ages are daily and enthusiastic visitors to the library.

At 2 pm, a patron with a guide dog and friend visited the library, and at 2:15 pm I overhead three patrons discussing how often they come to the library. One said he visited because “there’s an ambience here” that he doesn’t find elsewhere. At 3:50 pm a young woman borrowed a tablet. The library has six iPads and tablets to loan for in-library use.

By 4 pm, when my Monday shift ends, three new patrons had joined the library. A group of six or seven teen girls had visited together, which had me wondering if it was a PD day (I didn’t find out the answer). Half of them borrowed books. Other teens were in and out and families with young children and many retirees. At the circulation desk, as always, many toddlers’ and children’s hands were stamped. The library keeps a half dozen popular and seasonal rubber stamps with graphics that kids absolutely love (a puppy! a digger!) at the front desk. There are often line-ups just for stamps.

There are many more events, programs and collections at the library that I did not describe in this article. I could list them, but perhaps I’ll write another time about another “typical” day… perhaps after the summer camp and kids literacy programs begin. However, here are a few things you might not know about your library: the library lends out frisbees for the town’s disc golf course, ukeleles, language kits, Kill-A-Watt meters (to measure electricity usage in your home), audiobooks and large print, and a seed library, a film club, digital access to dozens of magazines, and ancestry online, and more. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Come see for yourself and visit online

Current program posters.

I kept a tally of library patrons today to include in this article. I may have missed a few (perhaps a few parents and tots who met outside). Roughly 74 females visited the library today and 41 males. When I left at 4:15 pm, 21 people were in the library – yet the library is open until 8 pm (Monday-Thursday) – and so my observations and tallies represent only HALF A DAY at the library! I’m curious about what I missed…

Sale corner with books and book bags (made by a generous, creative, industrious volunteer) for sale at great prices – proceeds to the library

Jill McCubbin works at the Almonte branch of the Mississippi Mills Public Library.




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