Thursday, July 1, 2010

Standing outside on Rideau Street

So Wednesday was our first SRC activity, and I decided to hold it out on the library's front lawn. Wait, you're saying, you don't have a front lawn! You're right. We have cedar shavings and giant boulders that used to be the floor of Philip's office before it cracked up, and some rose bushes (and sometimes needles and wine bottles, but we're not going there...).

I decided I wanted to:
  1. Remind people there is a library in the 'hood! You'd be amazed how many people are surprised by this.
  2. Reclaim the space from panhandlers, druggies and drunks (sorry, that was frank. I really love my community and I welcome all the visitors to the library - when they follow the rules, but I thought it would be nice to do something pleasant along what is sometimes a rather sad and desperate strip of shops and businesses).
  3. Promote SRC to families passing by (mostly on the way to Loblaws).
So, out we went. Now, this is quite a procedure in and of itself. With the help of my new CPPSA and a volunteer, we packed up one rickety book truck of craft material and books, and also dragged out two tables, chairs, and the storytime rug (well, if you're going out there, you might as well make a statement!)

Since there are stairs everywhere, we had to go all the way around the library and drive our booktruck through the link to the senior's home next door to get outside in one piece. One year, I did this all by myself. It sucked. Stuff fell off the truck in three different places on the way.

We started with two kids and ended up with ten: I read jungle stories on the storytime rug, and then the kids made frogs out of paper plates, and everyone had a blast despite the wind (thank God the rain held off). We signed up close to 15 kids for SRC and many asked about upcoming activities.

Sometimes I worry that I don't make friends with enough patrons. I'm really strict about drawing the line with people, because I once worked somewhere where there was no line, and every patron came in asking overly personal questions and grabbing your arm and weird things like that. So now, it's really rare that I share with people, or allow their sharing to go on for more than 30 seconds at the desk. I keep things pretty professional, but then I worry sometimes that I'm cold. I hear stories about librarians who are confidantes for teens, and I genuinely wonder if I'm doing my job wrong. A lot of the teens know me well, but not in that way. I think it's just different people, and different styles, but then sometimes (well, ok, a lot... you probably wouldn't think that, but it's true) I wonder if I'm a good enough community librarian.

Hanging out on Rideau Street for an hour and a half can change your mind about this. It was like social hour for Alex. Numerous patrons (parents with kids or adult patrons coming in and out of the library) stopped to say hi specifically, catch up with me, investigate the storytime, ask me if I had gotten my job officially yet, asked how the LANCR AGM was (OK, that patron was a librarian, but she's still a patron), told me about their trip to see the Queen at the NAC (damn! Couldn't make it...), and so on. I stopped another patron I saw go by to tell her we missed her son that afternoon because the boy in one of our stories we just read had the same name.

It was quite heartwarming. I felt in touch with the community in a really great way. Of course, this is sort of totally obvious: "Hey there, Cletus, if I stand here in the middle of Main Street, a lot of people I know sure do pass by!"

We only had one moment of Rideau weirdness: when I went in to get the garbage can for craft refuse, apparently a woman in a passing truck flashed everyone. Luckily, apparently the kids were too engrossed in their frogs to notice. Oh, Rideau Street. You never cease to surprise me.

Now I just need to decide if I can count the people in all the buses going by in outreach stats. They were totally all staring.


  1. Conducting Summer Reading Club outside sounds heavenly. We have 62 kids enrolled and it's going to be elbow-to-elbow in the program room. It's nice to see such enthusiasm but sometimes the logistics are staggering. At least we don't get any flashers!

  2. you've got twice as many as us at Rideau so far! but we'll get there....!