Wednesday, October 30, 2019

For the love of libraries

This past Sunday I had the honour of being the guest speaker at the annual fundraising gala of the Friends of the Haliburton County Public Library. Haliburton is a large rural county two and a half hours northeast of Toronto in a gorgeous land of rolling hills, forests, and lakes. Although the lakes are popular cottage destinations in the summer, most of the county is fairly poor and relies heavily on volunteers and fundraising for many services like libraries that cities take for granted.
Friends of the Haliburton County Public Library
The Friends are extremely active in their support of the library. The annual gala has been held for fourteen years and in addition to the presentation by a prominent author, there is a silent auction of items donated by local residents and businesses, all held at the beautiful Pinestone Resort. Between one and two hundred people attend the event, and the Friends also host monthly talks with an invited author, which about sixty people attend. This year the funds are going primarily to the purchase of ebooks so that library patrons can access their favourite books more easily, especially during the harsh winter months.

I have been an unabashed lover of libraries since I could first read. As a child, I browsed the shelves at will for my after-school entertainment, and I always went home with a stack of books. As a graduate student, I almost lived at the library as I researched and studied the material for my courses, academic texts being prohibitively expensive. And as a writer, one of my first stops when I'm researching the topic of a new book is at the library to pick up what they have on offer.

Attentive audience at the gala
I also recognize the importance of libraries as a central hub of community and learning. In addition to the books and resources themselves, my grandchildren are benefitting from their children's programs, and there are many other activities and groups for all interests. I have taught workshops and given readings organized by staff. In the country, this central, multi-faceted role is even more crucial. So I was thrilled for the chance to support the library.

The day dawned foggy and rainy, making the drive up from Toronto less than thrilling, but the welcome I received was bright and warm. People came from miles around, an informed and literate crowd who were friendly and enthusiastic. They filled the seats, listened with interest, and laughed at my jokes. Heads nodded at my more serious points. Afterwards they came up to talk and to buy books from the local independent bookseller, Masters Bookstore. A huge shout-out for indies, who venture where Coles and Indigo dare not go.

Reading from Prisoners of Hope
Writing is a lonely pursuit and the promotional side of it can be draining, particularly the dreaded mall signings in which you flog your book to people who've never heard of you. There are many times when we writers wonder why on earth we do this crazy job. Then a day like this comes along and reminds us why we write. Not just for ourselves but for that community of readers and fellow story lovers who are eager to be transported and who share our excitement at the stories we tell. And for all the workers, volunteer and paid, who make that connection possible.

Afterwards I drove on back home to Ottawa through the rolling hills and lakes of cottage country, now sparkling from the recent rain. A long but satisfying day.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post very much and will pass it along to my own library - they may be interested in doing something similar to raise money. Our Friends of the Library do just the most wonderful job of not only raising funds and doing events, they also decorate the building for holidays and take books to shut ins, etc. We could not operate our small library without the help and support of our "Friends" and the public.

Susan D said...

Thanks for sharing, Barbara.

Until we finally got our own wifi last year at our cottage, we relied heavily on the Minden Hills library (in the Haliburton system) for all our internet needs. There are so many services libraries provide to people beyond books, but yes, BOOKS too.

Of course you know this, and I know this, and people who need and use libraries know this. If only there weren't this ominous grey threat out there pretending it isn't so.

Aline Templeton said...

I love speaking in libraries. I always feel it puts me in direct touch with readers in a way that being on a panel at a conference simply doesn't.