Sioux Lookout Public Library sees changes
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
When the COVID pandemic hit, public libraries across the country faced challenges, and were forced to find ways to adapt. The Sioux Lookout Public Library (SLPL) was no exception, and some of the adaptations made to help the library better navigate the pandemic are becoming permanent.
While the library remains closed to the public for the time being, it remains committed to opening its doors again as soon as possible.
In the meantime, there have been some changes occurring internally behind the scenes. In a press release dated October 19, the SLPL described some of its challenges, and the changes it has put in place, stating, “The biggest change of course was that the library closed its doors to the public. That was difficult for both the public and the staff because libraries are fundamentally social places. The library is an important destination in the community, especially for parents with small children, after school for tweens and teens, and for retirees. And interaction with people is probably the most important and rewarding part of the job for librarians.”
The release goes on to say that staff turnover has led the library to begin recruiting for both the position of CEO/Chief Librarian and Assistant Librarian. In the interim, former CEO/Chief Librarian Wendy MacDonald has stepped in to manage the library until the right candidates are found.
Other changes include expanding how the library delivers services, including developing a curbside pick-up procedure, but unfortunately other plans for outreach, special projects and community partnerships were just not feasible.
Providing digital services has played a growing role in libraries as well, and our library is no exception. Digital access to apps like Libby, which gives access to audio books, e-books and magazines is just one facet of growing online services. Facebook has come to be another important part of the library’s social media presence, and despite the closure to the public, the library Wi-Fi continues to be a valuable resource to the public. These are changes the library expects will remain permanent.
The way the library uses space is also something that came up for consideration. While the library was already adapting its physical space, during its closure they added new fixtures to the children’s area that will make the space more adaptable.
Some residents have sorely missed the vital role that libraries can play in their community.
As Florence Woolner, an enthusiastic patron of the SLPL for 50 years and counting, relates, “I think the library is an essential service in our town, not just value added. I have really missed it not being open during COVID. Books are everything to me but our library is about so much more than just books. It’s a place in town where you get connected to information, for sure, but it is also where people get connected to people and ideas.” Woolner went on to say, “Our library has always been so multi-faceted. I’ve seen brilliant films there by local filmmakers, heard amazing talks by world-renowned writers like Pat Ningewance, and attended a seminar about traditional Indigenous law. I love that our library is a place where everyone feels welcome and a really super place for kids to learn about so much.”
As Sioux Lookout Public Library Board Chair Robert Labossiere explains, “We are looking forward to getting back on track - We completed a strategic plan this year that sets out a vision for the library as a place that is welcoming to all: ‘Your Community Living Room’. That is something the Board feels Sioux Lookout really needs, and we want to get back to building, as soon as possible.”
Councillor Joyce Timpson, who serves as the Municipality’s representative on the library board added, “The Municipality recognizes the important contribution made by the library to our town. The library has reached out to the Municipality and they are helping as much as they can to ensure the library gets through this transition period.”
As Woolner puts it, “You can complain about potholes in your road but, for me, the library is far more important for creating a vibrant and fun place to live.”
Members of the public interested in reading the library’s strategic plan can find it at: http://slpl.on.ca/strategicplan.