NEW COLUM­NIST

Colum­nist re­flects upon mem­o­ries of var­i­ous li­braries

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - Lila Car­son

Meet our new Glace Bay colum­nist Lila Car­son.

Be­sides loan­ing books, li­braries do so many other things these days in­clud­ing book launches, story times for tod­dlers, se­nior sem­i­nars, and book clubs.

That’s just at the phys­i­cal Glace Bay Li­brary lo­ca­tion. There are other li­braries in the CBRM and with the bor­row any­where, re­turn any­where pol­icy and in­ter-li­brary loans, we are al­most lim­it­less.

At McCon­nell Li­brary in Syd­ney, I’ve played chess, at­tended the an­nual knit-a-thon and met Vi­ola Des­mond’s sis­ter Wanda Rob­son. You can bor­row snow­shoes, pe­dome­ters, DVDs, e-books, or even go to a teen song­writ­ing work­shop. Li­braries have come a long way.

When I moved to Glace Bay, I joined the se­niors book club. Co-or­di­nated by the li­brary staff, all the work is done for you. All you have to do is read the book and show up. It makes read­ing clubs af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble for all. Books in­tro­duce you to new, lo­cal au­thors. That’s how I heard of Les­lie Crewe. You’d be sur­prised by the di­rec­tion some of the dis­cus­sions can take.

So, what about the his­tory of the li­brary in Glace Bay? A 95-year-old book club mem­ber told me her fa­ther used to walk past the Credit Union on West Street in #2 which had a li­brary for the min­ers. He al­ways stopped by and got books. He read them, and so did the whole fam­ily. To­day at 95, she’s still en­joy­ing books.

J.B. MacLach­lan pro­moted lit­er­acy with books and his ed­u­ca­tional ar­ti­cles. Fa­ther Jimmy Tomp­kins with his peo­ple’s li­brary and study groups in Re­serve Mines and the Carnegie Cor­po­ra­tion with their money all con­trib­uted. The seeds for the idea of re­gional li­braries with trained li­brary staff had been planted. They just had to ger­mi­nate.

In 1951, Glace Bay re­ceived a spe­cial birth­day present. The Bank of Mon­treal do­nated their old build­ing to be used as a li­brary.

Think­ing of the beau­ti­ful old li­brary with its up­stairs loft brings happy mem­o­ries to many. But who could ever for­get those “Shh! Quiet in the Li­brary signs?”

To­day’s li­braries are very dif­fer­ent, much more wel­com­ing and help­ful.

On Oc­to­ber 4, 1991, 900 boxes con­tain­ing 21,000 books moved to the cur­rent li­brary at 121 Union Street. Later the old Greco Pizza Restau­rant mor­phed into the chil­dren’s sec­tion of the li­brary, com­plete with its yel­low and blue stained glass lamps as you en­ter. I never no­ticed un­til I started re­search­ing the in­cred­i­bly valu­able hooked his­tory ta­pes­try called the “Louis­bourg Mat” hang­ing on the back wall of the adult li­brary. Renowned poet Lil­lian Crewe Walsh com­pleted it in 1933 and do­nated it to the orig­i­nal li­brary in 1953. It de­picts the story of John Cabot and his son Se­bas­tian, land­ing in Cape Bre­ton in 1497. There is also a sis­ter ta­pes­try hang­ing in the Old Town Hall.

My first child­hood ex­pe­ri­ence with li­braries was through a book­mo­bile that vis­ited our com­mu­nity all sum­mer. We walked over a mile just to bor­row a big arm­ful of books. Those sum­mers I felt like “Lit­tle House on the Prairie” au­thor Laura In­galls Wilder came to Mira Gut just for me.

I have been to so many li­braries I couldn’t even re­mem­ber them all. In the six prov­inces I have lived I went to at least one li­brary in each. I’ve taken my grand­chil­dren to a first aid course for kids in Saint John, N.B., and taken the rest to sto­ry­times in Al­berta and Win­nipeg, Man­i­toba.

When I taught in ru­ral Al­berta, I bor­rowed books from li­braries in Cal­gary, Air­drie, Cochrane, Cre­mona, Carstairs, Dids­bury, Olds, and Red Deer, all at the same time. Teach­ing on the re­mote Bun­ni­bonibee Cree Na­tion in North­ern Man­i­toba, I dis­cov­ered the se­ri­ous­ness of li­brary ser­vices be­ing free and ac­ces­si­ble to all. Vis­it­ing Win­nipeg’s Cen­ten­nial Li­brary, I asked how I could bor­row books while liv­ing in a fly-in com­mu­nity. Bran­don Li­brary had such an outreach. For four years, I reg­u­larly re­ceived books in a green can­vas bag with big snaps on it and an at­tached plas­tic en­ve­lope where the ad­dress la­bel could be placed. And not only that, the free re­turn postage was also in­cluded for ship­ping through Canada Post and Perime­ter Air­ways!

I hope a visit to Glace Bay’s li­brary will see you get­ting your own free mem­ber­ship card join­ing the other 3,297 mem­bers and bor­row­ing from the 27,797 items in stock.

As part of Fam­ily Lit­er­acy Day, mark your cal­en­dar for the Harry Pot­ter Book Night at Glace Bay Li­brary, Feb. 28, 6 to 8 p.m., open to ev­ery­one, Grade 3 and up. Lila Car­son used to be an ele­men­tary teacher who re­turned home to Cape Bre­ton. She took a course on the his­tory of Cape Bre­ton at Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity and de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in learn­ing about where she lived. She now wants to share this knowl­edge with oth­ers. If you have any com­ments or ideas you would like to see in fu­ture col­umns, email her at lilacar­son@hot­mail.com.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

This is the “Louis­bourg Mat” hang­ing on the back wall of the adult li­brary. Renowned poet Lil­lian Crewe Walsh com­pleted it in 1933 and do­nated it to the orig­i­nal li­brary in 1953.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

This is the “Louis­bourg Mat” hang­ing on the back wall of the adult li­brary. Renowned poet Lil­lian Crewe Walsh com­pleted it in 1933 and do­nated it to the orig­i­nal li­brary in 1953.

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