By Sue Tiffin
Andrea Brown said she aims to be a community builder, and she’s off to a great start.
Brown joined the Haliburton County Public Library as programming and outreach co-ordinator in late October last year, and immediately set to work making connections in the community.
“I think through programming we can reach out to connect people, which is always important, but especially now that many people have been disconnected for the last two years,” she said. “It’s a way to bring people together to learn – whatever life stage they’re at, whether they’re little kids or teens or elderly people – the library through our programming can offer something for everybody. And we have the space and the expertise to support all of that learning.”
Brown went to Trent University and found herself immersed in jobs working toward community development during the summer. While she moved west and joined the Vancouver Public Library, she said she’s excited to be back home in Ontario getting the word out about community happenings, bringing people into the library in different ways, and collaborating with the community as much as possible.
Last Christmas, the HCPL worked with the Central Food Network to open the Cardiff branch on a normally closed day to help with their toy distribution drive. Through the EarlyON Child and Family Centre, the library offered outdoor space for programming during last winter’s provincial lockdown, and also helps distribute early learning activity packs from EarlyON, with funding from United Way, to kids in the community.
“I try to reach out to lots of people,” said Brown. “That’s what the library is for, it’s a community hub where people can come to learn and share, and we can leverage our space.”
Besides distributing kits for kids, the library also distributes kits for teens, through a partnership with Point in Time. Those swag bags have information about different youth programs and services offered, as well as a notebook, chapstick, or juice boxes and granola bars. Brown said it’s a generous offering from the Youth Hub, and works well at the library where teens sometimes visit on social outings.
Brown said more individuals and groups are taking advantage of the library as a hub.
In Cardiff, one library patron wants to facilitate a Cardiff crafters drop-in, and a book club.
“Cardiff is a really small community, the branch hours are limited, but this is a designated day and time once a month where folks from the area can come in and bring their knitting or their crocheting project or their sewing, and just connect with people who live in their community, chat and get to know each other as well,” said Brown. “It’s a chance for people to connect, really, interact and learn from each other about life experiences.”
Another community partnership the HCPL has made is with the John Howard Society and Fleming Crew. Staff from there will be offering patrons in outlying branches where transportation can be a barrier information on academic upgrading and pre-employment skills and helping with literacy skills or help with proofreading a cover letter.
“It’s bringing the services that are offered by those groups into the more rural areas,” said Brown. “We’re hoping it goes well, we’re hoping we see people who come into the library that don’t normally come in. The library has free wi-fi and public computers as well as free books and movies and things like that. Hopefully it will benefit the library by inviting patrons in who maybe don’t use the library regularly already, but then it allows opportunities to meet in a safe, comfortable, public space, much closer to where people are maybe living.”
Partnerships have also been formed and programming is taking place with groups including the Haliburton County Master Gardeners, the University of Guelph, the Turtle Guardians, Children’s Water Festival and Green Burial Society, local artists and genealogist Adele Espina offering workshops, information sessions or kits and supplies for library patrons.
Brown said community members and groups are invited to come and hold public presentations about the knowledge or passion they have on a topic, everything from filing taxes, to using a compass.
“We really are trying to partner with all of the people throughout our communities,” said Brown. “There’s so much local knowledge and expertise that people have, we’d be happy for them to come to the library and share that with everyone. It could be anything – if you have an interest, something you know about and you’re willing to share your time, we’d be happy to set that up.”
“You certainly have been busy and it sounds like you’ve made some great partnerships already,” said Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts to Brown at the last library board meeting. “A library is a community hub, we don’t just operate all by ourselves, so I just love this collaborative effort and things you’re doing.”
“We just want to share information and resources,” Brown told the Echo. “The library is a place for everyone. Everyone’s welcome, there’s something here for everyone.”
Further information about upcoming programming is available at haliburtonlibrary.ca or through the HCPL social media channels.
To get in touch with Brown, email firstname.lastname@example.org.