By Chris Drost
The following are news briefs from Highlands East council’s regular council meeting held on regular council meeting on July 12.
The Highlands East council is seeing the full scope of life at the Haliburton County Public Library after a delegation was made at the meeting.
Library CEO, Chris Stephenson reported that two long-time employees have departed and four new individuals have started and are currently being trained. Together, Marilyn Billings and Cathy Passaretti, represented 73 years of combined service at the libraries in Gooderham and Cardiff.
The Gooderham Community Action Group met in late-March and began the process for strategizing how to increase foot traffic to the libraries.
Wilberforce was a pilot branch for the new branch signage. New sandwich board “open” signs have been added to all the branches.
The recent Storytime program in Wilberforce was well attended. It is run in partnership with Early ON. The plan is to continue to build on this successful program. The Summer Reading Program is already underway.
The “January Cure” took place in all branches. It involved getting rid of the old to make room for the new. “It is all part of heading towards modernization for all the libraries,” explained Stephenson.
The Friends have added a book sale cart at the Highland Grove branch.
At the Cardiff branch, the Christmas Toy Drive on Dec. 22 2021, was a great success. A total of 32 children were given Christmas gifts and the library was opened after-hours for the event.
Big picture plans
The rebranding/refreshing of the libraries with a new logo and new website, is complete.
“We hope it will tie all the branches together,” Stephenson said.
The library has been very happy to work with Biblio Commons, a Canadian company that is the gold standard in many libraries for catalogue search functionality. It allows you to find and reserve books on line and is integrated with the website. “We are really pleased to work with them,” added Stephenson.
New staff on board
“Our staff is everything in terms of programs and services. Having a number two deputy to support the leadership team is all part of our secret to success,” Stephenson said.
Library board busy “stickhandling” changes
Sally Howson, library board chair, reported that the board has been busy stickhandling through all the various changes, especially with regards to health and safety. “The policies need to be up to date,” she said.
The board largely follows those of the County of Haliburton, but sometimes they have to be adapted specifically to the library.
Howson explained that the library board is appointed by Haliburton County Council for a four-year term. With the election later this year, it means the term ends on Nov. 14. There will be a notice sometime in December for community members to apply to the board. Typically, they try to have one community representative from each of the four municipalities.
“If you know someone who might be interested, tell them to watch for the post. I have been on it for four years. It has been an exciting and dynamic time,” she said.
Howson continued by thanking Highlands East for all the support.
Annual mid-year report focuses on priorities
In her annual report, that is really a mid-year snapshot at this time, Howson focused on the board’s priorities, modernization, collections, technology, physical space and programming.
The report revealed that 6,908 people in Haliburton County had a library card in 2022. A total of 108,443 items have been circulated, including 44,002 digital. The number of visits to the new Kanopy video platform has reached 4,124 and 123 user accounts were created. There are now 51,691 items on the library shelves and 4,820 items were added, approximately 89 new items per week. A total of 5,208 have used the library website this year.
Positive response from council
Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall explained that he has been part of the library board for three or four years and it has made some sizable improvements. He offered a comment to Stephenson, rather than a question: “I think since you came on board, we have a much better vision and clarity. Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing what you do with us and for us. You are just starting to get your training wheels off. You hit the road at 100 miles per hour. Thank you and welcome to Highlands East.”
“We are lucky to have staff getting back in pre-pandemic size. Our online services have improved across the county,” responded Stephenson.
Councillor Cameron McKenzie offered thanks to Stephenson on behalf of the Central Food Network. “We couldn’t have done what we have done without the library,” he said. “Your new library sign looks so good my food bank sign looks tacky.”
“We hope to open the libraries more for good purposes and programs,” Stephension said.
Heat Bank need increases
The need for help with firewood has really heated up in the past year. While typically, 60 to 65 loads of firewood go out, last year it was 81. This can be attributed to the rising fuel costs and the colder winter.
Heat Bank typically assists 120 households each year. They only take hardwood because of increased fire risk with burning softwood regularly.
Forty-six per cent of the Heat Bank requests for service came from Highlands East, 26 per cent from Minden Hills and 24 per cent from Dysart et al. Forty-two per cent of the clients for Heat Bank services were adults, 32 per cent seniors, and 26 per cent were children.
Service statistics broke all records
During the past year, all CFN service records have been broken. The food banks are currently serving an average of 184 people each month. Cardiff is seeing around 81 visits every month (could include multiple visits by one person) and the Hub, 164 per month.
Community Cooks volunteers have cooked up 1,914 meal servings so far this year. The total for 2021 was 4,208. The total impact of all programs was 2,922 visits/requests and 742 people received help.
Last year, the CFN helped “unlock” $100,000 on behalf of clients. That means identifying potential funding sources for clients and helping them access those funds by helping them with applications.
“I am super proud that our little program has had such a huge impact locally,” Wright-Laking said.