Opinion Column

CEB: Dare to enter other worlds via media portals

By Patricia Anne Elford



On Saturdays, a mother, a father, and two young children — a brother and a sister — do this. No matter the weather, they trudge across town to a very special big brick building topped by a tiny steeple.

There!” one child shouts, “We’re almost there!”

Carefully, Mom and Dad behind, ready to provide cushioning for the children’s potential loss of balance, they climb the big steps with a centred metal railing and cement balustrades on each side: one . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . six . . . seven steps.

Dad and Mom open the heavy, glass-paned, wooden doors. More steps! They look like marble. Is it seven more? Another set of glass-paned doors. They can see the inner sanctum, but still aren’t there.

Finally, the foursome is truly inside. The lighting is dim; the woodwork is dark. It’s almost silent. Their footsteps and whispers echo. Seems like church, but it isn’t. There are long wooden tables with wooden chairs. Each wall has dark shelves from floor to very high. More bookshelves divide the huge room into smaller rooms. Adults and children know exactly where they want to go in this cool, calm, book-scented place, their library.

Children’s picture books, Nancy Drew, history, biographies, and the latest novels . . . good start! The children pick out old favourites or favourites-to-be. The parents have a little ringed notebook listing every volume they’ve ever checked out so that no repeats accidentally occur. Adults and children regretfully weigh choices to stay within the allowable check-out limit. It will be a whole week before the supply can be replenished. The chosen books are checked out at the big front desk by a librarian who knows them by name, their reading interests by heart. Mom and Dad pile those hardcovers into shopping bags, ready for the eager homeward trek.

At home, all four, the adults in their favourite soft chairs, the children spread out, tummies down, on the living-room rug, open the books’ doorways to disappear into other worlds. A cat will settle on a warm back or lap. A grunt or laugh will periodically break the outer stillness. Occasionally, an adult will drag himself out of his own adventure to read a picture book with one of the children. It is a peaceful, magical time.

This weekly ritual and Dad’s nightly bedtime readings from two giant storybooks were our introduction to reading. Reading was both individual and social. It was warm and special—a wonderful gift that didn’t cost a cent! Thank you, Andrew Carnegie! (As many know, the Renfrew Library has expanded its services and Raglan-Street accessible facilities during the MANY years since then.)

After leaving home, one of the first places I visited following each move was the public library.

When I married and had children, the same was true. In Peterborough Library, one children’s treat was a live introduction to the orchestra members. In St. Andrew’s, N.B., I restacked books, prepared thematic book displays, and led a weekly children’s hour with creative activities and games related to the books’ theme of the day. In Innisfail, Alta., the library, a block away, became like an extension of the Manse. In Toronto, we lived in a missionary residence not far from the Wychwood Library. In addition to carrying our bags of books, we borrowed mounted prints of artwork, such as Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” and Magritte’s “Peace Dove,” to have on our living-room wall for three weeks before exchanging it for another. What a treat!

When we arrived in Petawawa, the first library Robert tracked down was the one on Base, as he searched for military history volumes not found elsewhere. We joined and followed the Petawawa Public Library as it roamed before settling into its present beautiful home. Inter-Library loans make getting the next book in a series or a new release a relatively easy matter. Or, we can go visit. In Deep River, there’s the bonus/distraction of a refreshing river view from the W. B. Lewis Library. http://www.deepriverlibrary.ca/?file=kop1.php

At Pembroke Library, there is special support for writers, and not just their own writers’ group, e.g. events to link publishers, writers and the public. Samples of poetry competition results have been posted online. Pembroke-Library-filmed You-Tube videos made of area writers presenting their work are there. There is a home delivery plan. http://pembrokelibrary.ca/home-delivery-extension-services/

The local libraries have also featured the Petawawa Grannies’ project, the Grandmothers’ Necklace anthology, published to raise funds to help the grandmothers raising children, orphaned by HIV/AIDS, in Africa.

Despite having over 5,000 books at home, we enjoy visiting the easy-access Petawawa Library. http://www.petawawapubliclibrary.ca/about.php. The atmosphere has always been cheerful, the staff, helpful and patient beyond mere courtesy. I also enjoy checking on the books, CDs, VHS and DVDs regularly on sale for donations. Seldom have I left without something(s).We appreciated all of the support we got when we launched the Grandmothers’ Necklace book, still available there to borrow or buy. It was our best-attended Valley launch and, I’ve been encouraged by staff to arrange a book-reading and discussion event there. They have artwork displays: pieces by gifted amateurs and by professionals such as Deep River’s Valley Artisans. I’m eager to experience Petawawa’s “green screen” for myself.

Check https://www.facebook.com/pg/petawawapubliclibrary/photos/?ref=page_internale to see what I mean. Try http://www.petawawapubliclibrary.ca/ to discover all the technology and services, including Homebound delivery.

When we’ve read borrowed books and discovered we’d like to have copies at home, but don’t feel particularly rich, we check out the library sales shelves OR, on any of Tuesday to Saturday, we head to Pembroke’s Prince Street Books & Coffee Company, across from Giant Tiger’s Prince Street entrance. Sometimes we take a few of our own respectfully used books to sell. We hunt for treasures among two floors of countless books for sale, some older, some from the current best-seller list, many gently used, some new. The proprietor, Everly Kuefcsry sells books written and edited by a few area authors.

For fun, in today’s “Doors” illustration, try to find: 1) “Catnip”, the reading cat, 2) the front doors of Pembroke, Renfrew and Petawawa Libraries and that of Prince Street Bookstore. 3) Petawawa Library’s first-in-Renfrew-County Booktree. Happy reading!

Deep River Library: 613-584-4244

Pembroke Library: 613-732-8844

Petawawa Library: 613-687-2227

Prince Street Books: 613-635-7800


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