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Below are stories that touch on the importance of your public library in the community. On Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, please consider giving to the library by donating below.
This chart from Statistics Canada shows the rising cost of living in Canada.
The library faces increased costs while demand on its services rises.
As Nova Scotians face increasing costs, housing shortages, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they turn to libraries more.
Libraries assist government priorities such as creating healthy communities, supporting a healthy economy, and providing a sense of belonging for newcomers.
“We want to be able to respond to those needs,” says Erin Comeau, Executive Director of Western Counties Regional Library.
Cost pressures facing public libraries are staggering. The library struggles to maintain its level of service because of rising costs. Along with increased demand from communities, the cost is rising for most items in library collections:
Adult print book – increased 8.5% in 2022, with another 8-10% projected for 2023
Use of Adult eBooks has risen 48% since 2019, placing a strain on library budgets due to the higher cost relative to print books
Print magazines increased 4-6% increase in 2023, digital magazines – 3-5%
Database subscriptions – 6% increase since 2020
Western Counties Regional Library operates 10 library branches in Digby, Shelburne and Yarmouth counties. It must deal with the challenge this huge geographic region with a sparse population presents. It is costly to provide proper library services. The cost of fuel alone to transport material from branch-to-branch and from headquarters to the branches has had a huge negative impact on the library budget.
Funding for the library has remained relatively static over the past decade. It has had its funding frozen with the exception of some very small financial “top-ups” by the provincial government in recent budgets.
The library has pared down its staff, some branch hours, and expenses as much as it can to avoid closing branches.
This makes Giving Tuesday, an important fundraiser to ensure the library’s financial future.
Newcomers Find Comfort at the Library
Windy Nguyen reads while her mother Anh looks on.
Far from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, the Nguyen family has found a home in Yarmouth and at its library
The Nguyen family has lived in Yarmouth for almost two years, moving here from Ho Chi Minh City, the capital with a population of 9.3-million people.
“My husband got a job at A.F. Theriault,” says Anh Nguyen. A.F. Theriault & Son Ltd. Is a boatbuilding operation in Meteghan.
The family began looking to move to Canada, seeking a better quality of education for their two children, Windy, 9, and Mip, 3, moving here in February 2022.
Ho Chi Minh City was very crowded, polluted and filled with traffic, she says.
She says it was hard to access things such as school, libraries and recreational facilities. Windy had to get up very early to get to school, eating breakfast in the car.
Throughout the interview, Windy flipped through the pages of various books while keeping an ear to the conversation.
Windy enjoys the library because she can “read the books and get entertained.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Vietnam, Windy had to study online. She attended a Canadian school that followed the Vietnamese curriculum. Studying was very difficult because Windy was learning to read, and the classes had written instruction. This meant Windy’s father had to sit with her during her studies.
Windy loves reading, but the school’s strict focus on grammar and composition “killed the love for reading,” Anh says.
The family wanted their children to enjoy activities beyond school work, which was not possible.
Ho Chi Minh City has a wonderful library and some recreational activities, but they were in areas that were hard for the family to reach, Anh says.
They learned that their new home had many activities within walking distance from their place in Yarmouth.
Anh commends YREACH-Yarmouth for providing them with information and guidance once they arrived in the community. YREACH staff showed them how to access places such as the Yarmouth library and Mariners on Main, a facility offering a wide range of activities such as a pool, gym, fitness centre and other programming.
“We usually walk to the library,” she says.
The library is important to the family because it is a comfortable, safe environment for reading and meeting other children.
Anh and Windy Nguyen, left, enjoy the craft program library clerk Carol Wing, right, organizes every second Friday.
Windy also looks forward to the craft program with library clerk Carol Wing every second Friday.
“We have somewhere to read what we want,” Anh says. She adds that Windy learns about respecting others at the library and putting books back in their proper place.
Although the Nguyens love the library, Anh would like to see a little more choice at the library. They have had difficulty finding specific books, especially parts of longer series. However, she was not aware of that she could suggest a title through the library’s Contact page on its website. She could also ask the library clerks for further assistance.
She would love to see more activities for children.
“This age they really want to explore,” she says.
Seniors Residences Deliveries Make a Difference
A library delivery of books and movies to a seniors residence provides access to things that would be out of reach for some of its tenants.
Calvin Fenton holds a movie he borrowed from the library. He didn’t know the library had movies and television shows to borrow until about two years ago thanks to a visit from Yarmouth library clerks to his residence.
“The service is good,” says Calvin Fenton, who lives at The Willows in Yarmouth. Library clerks visit The Willows on the first Wednesday of every month.
Almost all library branches do deliveries to various seniors residences in the Tri-Counties. Yarmouth library staff do four days of deliveries a month to eight seniors residences.
Fenton did not know that people could borrow movies from the library. Another resident, Donald Smith, told him about it.
“I never thought of libraries for movies, just books,” Fenton says.
Two years ago, Smith was in the common area at The Willows when a library clerk told him he could borrow movies and television shows from the library with a free library card.
“I don’t have cable,” Fenton says, adding that there are no video-rental places anymore and he can’t afford to buy a lot of DVDs. “To me, that’s a waste of money.”
Although the library delivers, Fenton and Smith walk to the library to pick up their shows most of the time.
Without a computer, they rely on the library clerks to help them find the movies and television series they want to watch if it is not available on the shelves.
Because Fenton is unable to browse the library’s online catalogue from home, he also creates a list from the previews on the items he borrows.
Donald Smith can’t afford cable and says the library helps him out a lot.
Both Fenton and Smith would like to see a greater selection at the library, but are grateful the library is there for them.
“They (library clerks) all take care of me,” Fenton says. “The library is a good thing for people who can’t afford (to buy movies and books).”
Like Fenton, Smith doesn’t have cable but does have a DVD player.
“Can’t afford (cable),” he says. “I get movies and box sets and that helps me out a lot.”
“I had problems sleeping at night,” he says. “Then I throw on a movie, and I’m good.”
He has been able to watch some of his favourite old TV shows, including Matlock.
“It was good to get a new library card, and, now, they know me and Calvin,” he says.
Yarmouth library clerk Nick Cook finds people are very grateful for the service.
“To people who use it, it is absolutely essential to them,” says Cook. “With no mobility, no car, no family, it can be very isolating. Without it, they have no access to reading for diversion, entertainment, and enrichment.”
Teaching Valuable Skills, Filling a Need
A series of workshops at the library is filling a need for programs to help people learn to use their smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Mahala Sears, right, Manager of Programs and Services at Western Counties Regional Library, answers a question about a computer tablet while Ryan McKenzie, left, provides some one-on-one help to a participant during the Hands-On Tablet Training program in Digby.
“The thing I have discovered most is people really need help,” says Mahala Sears, Manager of Programs and Services at Western Counties Regional Library. “No one in the community is teaching them.”
That is changing through a series of workshops, Hands-On Tablet Training, led by Sears and funded by a Nova Scotia Age-Friendly Communities Grant.
Older adults make up all of the participants, Sears says.
“I’m computer illiterate,” says Larry Irving at the first of three workshops in Digby. “I came here to get the basics.”
Sears says people need to understand the digital world to access many services and benefits.
People need to know how to work their smartphones, tablets and other devices to fill out health-care forms, book doctor appointments, bank, email, and stay connected to family, either via text or video, she says.
Sears says too many people assume there is a basic level of understanding and knowledge when it comes to digital devices and the Internet.
“I’m learning from the ground up,” says one participant in Digby.
The series of three workshops teaches people how to use their tablet or smartphone and key features. The sessions cover email, messaging and video calling, social media and basic online safety. Participants can bring their own device or they can borrow tablets from the library.
“I teach a lot of accessibility features,” Sears says. This includes teaching how to enlarge text, use voice commands and voice-to-text features.
She says the ability for people to borrow tablets from the library has gone well. It shows them how much better new devices are than some of the older models. The tablets can be quite inexpensive but still have a lot of great features.
Irving discovered he could do most of the things he learned during the first workshop.
“I can go home and play with it (his tablet),” he says.
He would travel to get this kind of training if it existed, but he was very grateful to find it at his local library. He knows library clerks can help him if he has difficulties following the workshops.
“I was having trouble with my phone,” says Tony Grange. “I learned a lot today.”
Sears says people would like some of the sections stretched out to full programs. Topics could include scams and frauds, social media, laptops and computers, and text and video messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Zoom.
Sears would also like to a separate session on privacy features and their importance online.
To discover more about programs at the library visit westerncounties.ca/events/.
Providing Devices to Help Gauge Home Health
Radon detectors, energy meters and carbon dioxide (C02) monitors are available at the library to help borrowers gauge the health of their home.
Radon detectors have a loan period of six weeks without any renewals, allowing borrowers the time necessary to get a proper reading. Radon is a radioactive gas formed by the breakdown of uranium. The gas is slowly released from soil, rock and water, and some building materials, such as concrete, bricks, tiles, and drywall. You cannot see, smell or taste radon.
Health Canada recommends measuring radon in your home in fall and winter. For more information on the risks of radon and how to reduce high radon levels, please refer to the resources included in the radon kit.
Energy meters plug into the wall and people plug the appliance or device into the meter to measure energy use. This can help the user decide whether it is time to replace the item or use energy-saving products such as power bars or timers. The loan period for the energy meter is three weeks with the possibility of three renewals.
The C02 monitor is for home and personal use. The monitors provide information on indoor air quality. The kits include information on C02 levels, ventilation and filtration, and monitor placement. Its loan period is one week with no renewals.
Other items available
The library also offers Be-Fit kits filled with a wide range of play items and guide books; binocular kits; pedometers; autism fidget, sensory and visual kits; portable hotspots that connect laptops, smartphones, and tablets to the Internet; and DAISY-compatible talking book reader offers accessibility for people with print disabilities.
How to Donate
Tax Receipts will be issued for all donations of $10 or more.
Cash – In-person at a library branch
Cheque – In-person at a library branch or by Canada Post made payable to Western Counties Regional Library and addressed to:
Office Manager Western Counties Regional Library 405 Main St., Yarmouth, NS B5A 1G3