A farewell to Haliburton County

By Chris Stephenson

At the recent September library Board meeting, I announced my resignation from Haliburton County Public Library (HCPL.) This was a tough day for me, and I had spent the weekend before calling our Board members and then sharing the news with our staff. Rest assured, I’m not jumping ship to lead another library! I’ve been happy here, and I’ve loved this community since I was a kid. My parents live nearby, and I have friends in and around the County. But now, I’m going to make healing my full-time job, as I’ve had some recent health issues develop, and I need to make some lifestyle changes.

My news was met with understanding and support from my colleagues and wise words from the Board members, who reminded me that taking care of my health is the most important job. Together with them and an amazing library team, we’ve accomplished much in my two years in Haliburton County. From completing the HCPL Strategic Plan and launching the Dorset Depot Lockers, to re-opening Stanhope branch and making key staffing changes across the library system, it’s been a busy time. I was especially pleased to work with the community on the rebranding of the library, building an accessible website with the administrative team, and to finally see the library’s first ever courier and programming van arrive and have the HCPL logo affixed.

When I arrived at the library, in the fall of September 2021, I sat down with new and senior staff, partners of the library, our Board members, and patrons to ask what they felt a top priority for HCPL might be. Resoundingly I heard people wanted increased communication about the organization, within it and beyond it, so patrons and residents knew what was going on and what the public library does in each of our communities. That’s what I set out to do. And with the help of two local radio stations, three newspapers, relationships with our local cultural and educational institutions – and many, many library partners and supporters – this part of my job became easy. Wherever I go in Haliburton County, I’ve enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with people about their library experience and learned much about how we might continue to refine our programs, the collection, and our services. Even my supermarket trips have resulted in a couple great ideas, or new ways of seeing some aspect of accessibility at the library!

It’s been a bit strange working on my own job posting this week. But I know there’s been a lot of change in the library world in Ontario and across Canada, and fall is a time when people might be thinking about moving to a beautiful region. At a recent library conference, I mentioned the position becoming available, and I sensed there was some interest by talented peers who began reimaging a future in Haliburton County.

In my case, I’ll be creating a future with my partner, Amanda, on the east coast. The last time I took a hiatus for a health issue 14 years ago, this led to positive change for me, and it also became a creative period. I went back to school to become a credentialed librarian, and I changed the course of my life in a meaningful way. So, for myself, I’m not just a little sad but also excited for what may be around the next corner. Public libraries have given me so much, and I will always support them. Haliburton County Public Library, as you may know, is a special place with committed people. We’ve done some good things here, and there are more exciting things in the works to come. Thanks to our patrons, visitors, and residents for making me feel at home here. You have been a part of our success.

I’ll be at the Administration office in Haliburton (and the Minden Hills branch on Thursdays) until Friday, Oct. 20, and my final event will be the Gala fundraising event hosted by the Friends of the Library, on Sunday, Oct. 22. I hope to see you around before I go.