Cape Breton Post
CAPE BRETON CHALK TALK
Sydney library turns concrete wall into community chalkboard
A new chalkboard erected at Sydney’s James McConnell Library is being put to use by members of the community. Ronald Jackson used the community chalkboard to advocate for universal basic income, help for the homeless, and even share some lyrics from his favourite band, Rush.
SYDNEY — The Cape Breton Regional Library has turned a bare concrete wall outside its Sydney branch into a place where people can share ideas, inspirational messages and art.
Last week, staff erected a giant chalkboard on the Charlotte Street side of the James McConnell Memorial Library.
Lisa Mulak, regional librarian, said a group of toddlers from the nearby YMCA was the first to grace the board with colourful images, and since then passersby have continued to add to it.
“We had a large cement wall with nothing on it, and with COVID and not being able to have people come in and do in-person programs and engage in that way, this gives us a way to engage with our community and give them an outlet for creative expression, whether it’s poetry, or a cause they may have, or drawings,” she explained.
One person who’s taken advantage of the chalkboard is Ronald Jackson, who has used the space to advocate for universal basic income, help for the homeless, and even share some lyrics from his favourite band, Rush.
“I’m concerned about a lot of things,” said Jackson, who is originally from Alberta and has been living in Sydney for just over a year.
“It’s good public input. I come from a land of talk radio shows in the morning
so this is something that gets people’s mental gears to start moving and say, ‘Hey, yeah. What about that? I never thought about that.’”
Mulak said that’s the sort of community and civic engagement the library wants to encourage.
While they initially left the chalkboard as a blank canvas for people to add to, she said staff will eventually use it to pose questions.
“Eventually we’ll come together with some questions to ask the community, like ‘What do you dream about?’ ‘What is your vision of a new library?’ — anything that can get people engaged and expressing pride in their community,” she said.
“Even for kids: ‘Draw your funniest creation, or the best mythical creature’ — things like that. It seemed like the right time because we have limited capacity in the library and we don’t get to do our regular programming, so this gives people an outlet to do that sort of creation outside our doors freely, in the safety of the outdoors.”
Despite initial concerns that the chalkboard would be targeted by graffiti artists, so far that hasn’t been the case.
“People like it,” she said. “It’s improving community spaces and placemaking.
“And it’s a chalkboard, so we can erase and we can repaint it.”