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October 20, 2006

Our Libraries Celebrated


October is Canadian Library Month and October 16-22 is Ontario Public Library week.  Many in the Community Voices area rely on their local library for a variety of services. 

Today I want to celebrate my local library as an example of a remarkable public asset like your library.  The Powassan and District Union Public Library, usually called the Powassan Library, serves the amalgamated communities of Trout Creek, South Himsworth and Powassan, and Chisholm and Nipissing Townships.  Restoule is also a special member.  Municipal councils support the library by annual grants plus there are government grants and active fundraising initiatives. 

Libraries are guided by the Libraries Act and have Boards that give direction to the Librarian (Chief Executive Officer – CEO).  I have been on the 11 member Powassan Board for a number of years – once as a councilor representative and currently as a community member.  Because of its population Powassan has six members, Chisholm and Nipissing two each and Restoule one.  We meet monthly except in the summer. 

Powassan Library History 

Like most libraries Powassan has a long history.  Powassan’s three history books (50th, 75th & 100th) have profiles of this history.  There is a reference in the May 1900 minutes of Powassan Council about a Library.  Apparently a local teacher living above a service station where the current Bank of Nova Scotia is today started a lending library.  It was relocated to another location which burned and was replaced by the local druggist in space in his store.  It moved several times again including to the south side of the Windsor Hotel and the Post Office, and the Municipal Office. 

Photo of the first Powassan Library in 1938

In 1938 the first separate building was built.  That library was open from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 on Wednesday and Saturday.  A new building was established in 1963 and in 1971 a library board was established.  By 1982 the current 2000 sq.ft. building was built with a full downstairs.  This current library has a staff consisting of CEO Helen McDonnell and part time staff Chris Jull, Diane Bourdon and Marg Amond.  Stephen Phillips, a student hired under the Community Access Program of Industry Canada has worked at the library for a couple of years part-time. 

The Library today.


The library has a wide range of books on all of the topics you would expect.  Community members have free library membership and upwards of 38,000 books are taken out annually.  The library also has DVDs and videos available.  An important function is local computer access with 9 high speed computers that are actively used.  Computer instruction is available including advanced classes on special topics.  Elementary schools are close by and use the library regularly.  Several home schoolers use the library. 

There is a Raising Readers program for children and parents.  There is also a Book Club where members discuss a book of particular interest each month.  (Teacher Man by Frank McCourt is on the agenda for October 26th). 

The Friends of the Library 

The Friends of the Library group provides fundraising and other services to the library and meets regularly.  Their current project is a large quilt that looks like a bookcase full of books.  For a fee you can have your name added to a book as a permanent record of your support. 

The Library Board 

The board recently completed a three-year strategic plan under the direction of a consultant to provide long term direction to the library.  The Board recently received a Trillium grant to establish a full kitchen, etc. in the library for events held there by the library or as a rental activity.  The Friends of the Library held a luncheon yesterday celebrating the completion of the Trillium project.  The quilt project mentioned above was on display. 

Big Changes in Services in Ontario 

NetLibrary is a new service accessible by computer which provides full-text copies of material, journals, databases, etc.  Check your library for further information or see www.netlibrary.org.  Library members access it through the library at home after registration.  There is also a pending joint server project where you can access other Northern libraries to see what books they have so you can go there or order them on an interlibrary loan. 

Knowledge Ontario is a hot new service available in January that will supply all publicly funded libraries in Ontario with “a core suite of digital products”.  These extensive databases will be of use to people of all ages.  It includes full text newspapers, magazines and books on your computer.  A pending mobile unit will be available to digitalize things like local history books for use by others through Knowledge Ontario.  To preview the service go to http://access.gate.com/ontario/. Training sessions will be available for all of the above services.  Contact your library for further information. 

The Downstairs Art Gallery 

The Library provides a valuable community service where local artists meet downstairs each Monday at the library and regularly display their work along with the work of area artists on a monthly basis.  There have been over 40 monthly exhibitions since 2003.  Drop in during library hours for a look.  The library is open daily except Wednesday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. – Friday to 6:00 p.m., Saturday to 3:30 p.m.  For the library website google “Powassan Library”. 

As the Canadian Library Month poster says “The world is at your fingertips.”


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