South Shore Breaker

Celebratin­g 50 years of service

South Shore Public Libraries set to mark special anniversar­y

- PAUL PICKREM SALTWIRE NETWORK paulpickre­m@gmail.com

In May 1982, Lynn Robart began her new job as a library clerk at the South Shore Public Libraries. Her first task was typing the filing system cards, which she tucked into a pouch on the inside back cover of hardcover and softcover books, on a manual typewriter.

After three days straight of typing the cards, Robart began to wonder about her future as a library clerk.

“By Friday night I said, ‘I'm not going to last,'” Robart said during a recent interview.

She did last, however. Forty years later, Robart is the executive assistant of the South Shore Public Libraries as it approaches its 50th anniversar­y in September.

“I think it is very exciting we have 50 years in here. And the last 40 years I have worked for the library were wonderful days to be here, and I am pleased I belong to the library staff,” Robart said.

Robart fondly remembers highlights over the decades, such as moving the Bridgewate­r branch to new locations twice and celebratin­g the libraries' 25th anniversar­y. She also remembers feeling excitement and pride watching the bookmobile return to base.

“It was always very exciting to see the big bus come in, all the bright colors coming into the parking lot, knowing they had served the community. They are very busy on the bus,” Robart said.

“I think it is great how we have grown in the community and have become vital to the community,” Robart said.

According to the South Shore Public Libraries website, the libraries have a

board of directors and operate under the terms set out by the Nova Scotia Libraries Act.

South Shore Public Libraries came to be in 1972, with the Town of Bridgewate­r, the Town of Lunenburg, and the Town of Mahone

Bay as original members.

The Municipali­ty of the District of Lunenburg joined in 1973 and the Municipali­ty of Chester in 1978. The Region of Queens Municipali­ty joined in 1976. Today, South Shore Public Libraries has more than 25 staff and provides services through four town libraries, a mobile library and outreach services.

The site says the Department of Communitie­s, Culture and Heritage provides approximat­ely 70 per cent of public library funding in Nova Scotia. A further 24 per cent is provided by the municipali­ties. This portion is divided among the six participat­ing municipal units on the South Shore based on population and is roughly $5.18 per capita.

The South Shore Regional Library Board fundraises for the remaining six per cent of its budget.

In 2018/2019, the annual budget was approximat­ely $1.4 million.

Jeff Mercer is the acting chief librarian for the South Shore Public Libraries. Mercer said during an interview the libraries' catchment area is the entire region

of Lunenburg and Queens counties, with active library cardholder­s of 23,000.

“Not a rapid growth. But a steady and significan­t one,” Mercer said.

Mercer will have 18 years of service with the libraries this September when the system itself reaches the 50-year mark.

“What it is going to celebrate is just how far we have come in terms of service to the public,” Mercer said.

“We have really embraced what the community is looking for,” he said.

“We are always going to have books. That is not going to change. But we are going to continue to adapt. We have embraced 3D printer technology and virtual reality. We are really embracing well beyond the traditiona­l scope of the library.”

Mercer said South Shore Public Libraries had implemente­d electronic services, such as downloadab­le books and audiobooks and drasticall­y improved programmin­g with activities and workshops embracing lifelong learning and a culture of literacy.

Over time, Mercer has also adapted his focus and skillsets.

"When I started, I was all about databases and technology and automation. Helping libraries transition from old card catalogues to online systems.

“Then I started working directly with the public and serving them across the desk or working with staff devising programs. That's where I really fell in love with libraries,” Mercer said.

“Forming that connection with people and helping them get that book they wanted or that movie. Or learn that fact they needed or seeing the kids have fun outside, trying their hand at a new activity or finding a new graphic novel.”

“It was that switch from the computer-oriented to the person that really made a difference for me,” Mercer said.

“I have seen kids grow up in my library and come back and visit you in the summer. And then there are grandparen­ts taking their kids in and teaching them how much they love the library,” Mercer said.

“That's what it means to me. It's that personal touch. It's knowing you are making a difference in people's lives for the better,” Mercer said.

Joy Saunders of Lunenburg was a regular visitor to the local Library after moving to the area from Cape Breton over 30 years ago.

“I started right in going to the library when it was on Elm Street,” Saunders said.

“I have spent many years in the library because I was always an avid reader.”

Saunders, who recently turned 103, said she is unable to visit the library now because she is blind. She said she listens to audiobooks at home instead.

“I think libraries are very important,” Saunders said.

“And for children it's so important,” Saunders said.

“Right from the beginning you should take your children to the library. The bookmobile­s are wonderful to get to people who can't get to the library.”

“I think that is wonderful. And I hope it goes on forever,” Saunders said about the upcoming anniversar­y.

Mercer said activities to mark the 50th anniversar­y will include creating and sharing an exhibit that commemorat­es the 50 years of public library service on the South Shore. The exhibit will be touring the different branches.

There will be an author reading by Canadian writer Carrie Fallis on Aug. 16.

The seventh annual Lunenburg Lit Fest in September celebrates Maritime authors.

Mercer said South Shore Public Libraries would also participat­e in joint celebratio­ns and activities with the Lunenburg Heritage Society and the Lunenburg Art gallery because they will also celebrate their 50th anniversar­y this year.

Informatio­n about South Shore Public Libraries is available at southshore­publiclibr­aries.ca, on Facebook or by calling 902-543-2548.

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 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? The South Shore Public Libraries Bookmobile is shown, from left, in 1973 and 2022.
CONTRIBUTE­D The South Shore Public Libraries Bookmobile is shown, from left, in 1973 and 2022.

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