ANTIGONISH: The local branch of the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library has recently passed a milestone.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” Sarah Armstrong, chair of the Friends of the Antigonish Library (FoAL) told The Reporter. “And it seems very fast in everybody’s mind, that’s their first reaction, “What? Already?””
In 2011, the People’s Place Library moved from their original, small 1,200 square foot home within the walls of Antigonish Town Hall, which now houses the recreation office, to their current 15,000 square foot home just across the road.
FoAL is an active part of the library, continuing their role by engaging community volunteers to further develop the People’s Place Library, its programming and collections.
Joyously celebrating the 10th anniversary of the award-winning hub in the community, Armstrong suggested the library is essential for community activity.
“I think that’s similar to most communities in Nova Scotia,” she said. “The library not only means a lot to our community, I think it’s also a showcase for other communities on how they can grow their libraries as well.”
Armstrong indicated she has always loved libraries, especially when she was younger and experienced social anxiety.
”The library was a very safe space for me and I’ve always had an attachment to the library in that way,” she said, which played a role in her choosing Antigonish to live. “Specifically, the community involvement around building a library and supporting the library in Antigonish is what drew me here, as well as knowing there was a body of community members who were continuously supporting the library.”
Despite the ongoing pandemic, FoAL would like to recognize the incredible staff at the library, who have creatively found ways to adapt to changing COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’ll be really, really great to get people back into the library, but what’s been really amazing is the library has been pretty much open throughout the pandemic,” Armstrong said. “The library has adapted very well and very quickly.”
The library continues to offer book and magazine loans, as well as on-site outdoor borrowing of newspapers and iPads, while printing services and children’s craft kits remain available.
“The breath of activity that’s still going on is really amazing,” she said. “We applaud the commitment to the public demonstrated by the library staff.”
While FoAL has had to suspend most activities this year and last, Armstrong advised they are monitoring the provincial health and safety guidelines to find a safe and suitable alternative to their annual book sale and the library’s 10th birthday party.
With fundraising activities lulled, she said users and supporters have never stopped supporting the People’s Place Library through Canada Helps, a charity fundraising Web site.
“Thank you to all the donors whose ongoing support has allowed the library to expand important developing collections,” Armstrong said. “Like, Indigenous authors, celebrating diversity, and LGBTQ+ books for young adults.”
As for how far the library has come the past decade, in addition to regular library programs which targets the youngest and oldest of citizens, she explained it’s also home to a local Community Access Program site, providing Internet and technology access, including wireless access.
“One of the first things FoAL became involved with when I became chair was the makers space, which is equipped with a 3-D printer, scanners and video editing suite,” Armstrong said. “Having community access to technology that’s expensive and difficult to access otherwise, is huge.”
She believes the library has truly evolved, through a natural progression, into a cultural space as well, bringing people from all walks of life together.
“There’s no class barriers in libraries, and it brings in people from different cultures and backgrounds, people who’re new to Antigonish,” Armstrong said. “It truly is a gathering place in that way.”
Any library cardholder who has ideas and energy are encouraged to consider joining FoAL.
They will be hosting their Annual General Meeting via Google Meetings on Wednesday, June 30 at 7 p.m. For more information, call Armstrong at (902) 735-2336.