Observations of the Public Library.
Imagine a library. Books lining the shelves, open ceilings, and the wonderful smell of endless possibilities floating through the air. Imagine a place where you can hide away from dull reality and dive into new universes. People are accepting regardless of your age, what you look like, where you’re from, or who you love. Imagine a home.
Imagination though, can only take you so far. To learn more we spoke with librarian Allison Trumble, who works hard to keep this gateway to knowledge clear, and to find out what else goes on beyond the books.
One of the first questions we asked Allison was how it feels to know you are the keeper of universes in the books on the shelves. She took a moment to think about the question. “Day to day I’m usually too busy with one task or another and can’t think about the big picture, but when I do it’s pretty cool.” She is not your stereotypical librarian—no tight bun in her hair, no horn-rimmed glasses, no stiff skirt, or stern facial expression telling you to SHUSH. In fact, she is just the opposite.
Believe it or not, librarians don’t necessarily grow up wanting to be librarians. Though Allison was always drawn to books and had a love for words and reading, she spent years planting trees before deciding on her profession. Before settling in the Comox Valley, Allison did library practicums in Dawson City, Ottawa, and at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, and is now a Children and Youth Librarian at the Courtenay Branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL). She sees libraries as extremely important for many reasons, one being that they provide people with a personal way to gather information. Allison states her highlights of being a librarian, “I find great satisfaction in helping people answer their questions, and in seeing children excited about reading.”
VIRL was first established in 1936 with just six branches and a little over ten thousand books. It served a few towns and had a small van route. Fast forward 80 years and VIRL is flourishing, with 39 branches and registered members increasing all the time. There are three library branches in the Comox Valley: Comox, Courtenay, and Cumberland. They are comfortable, and thought was clearly given to the beautiful timber frame in Courtenay, and more modern style of the Cumberland branch.
Alongside its rich history of bringing books to the people, the library offers many other services like a multipurpose room for use by non-profits, digital collections, computer banks, public washrooms, and of course, helpful and knowledgeable staff. Many things go on inside a library: book clubs meet to discuss their latest group book; there are writing clubs so people who love to write can have a chance to share their writing and get feedback; authors come to the library to read their latest work; there are movie nights and many after school programs aimed at a variety of ages; and so much more! The Comox Valley Raise A Reader program runs every September, and aims to empower children and families with tools to improve their reading skills. Then in October, a whole month of celebration takes place for LIBRARY MONTH!
We learned so much, and are very grateful to the library, and especially to Allison Trumble, for taking the time to teach us about libraries.
Want to learn more? Go check out your local branch; and/or visit the library online at virl.bc.ca or on their Facebook page
Notes from Nora Bingham:
For two days in July, photographer Jenn Dykstra and I got to hang out with a group of brilliant and curious Comox Valley kids, facilitating a free workshop on photojournalism. They were taught the basics of putting an article together from concept, through research, to writing, photos, and fruition. Our focus was on libraries, and what goes on behind the scenes — beyond the books.
Libraries are a wonderful thing. I would go so far as to call them an essential service within our community, so it was pretty special to be a part of this workshop collaboration dreamed up and organized by Leah Knutson of Cumberland Recreation, Jenn Dykstra of the CV Collective, Allison Trumble of Vancouver Island Regional Library, Sue Loveless of the Cumberland Community Schools Society, and Danielle Hoogland of the Comox Valley Lifelong Learning Association. Huge thanks to the Courtenay Library staff for pitching in to help, and to the Wandering Moose Cafe for providing a delicious lunch.