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Posted: December 8, 2019

Bringing the library to the people

In its new location on the top floor of the state-of-the-art Columbia Valley Centre, the Invermere Public Library has expanded its services with more books, activities and programs.

It also extends beyond its physical space, providing services throughout the Columbia Valley, from Spillimacheen to Canal Flats, to a population that fluctuates seasonally from 9,000 to 20,000 people.

With minimal staff, developing and implementing new, engaging programs has been difficult. To fulfill the library’s potential, the team needed an additional member—a knowledgeable and passionate person who could help deliver existing programs and develop a host of others.

With help from the Trust’s Career Internship Program, the library created a new full-time permanent position and filled it with their new intern. “The new role boosts our community outreach,” said Nicole Pawlak, Library Director. “After providing community programs only as our limited resources would allow, this is the first time we’ve been able to properly define and fulfill the role.”

The Career Internship Program gives employers wage subsidies to hire recent post-secondary graduates for full-time, career-focused positions that lead to permanent employment. The program helps employers expand their teams and capacity at a reduced cost; it also supports graduates in finding employment in their chosen fields.

A recent graduate of English from Dalhousie University in Halifax, the new Community Outreach Library Assistant, Blair McFarlane, draws on a long history with the library—years as a volunteer and a summer student since 2015. She now eagerly embraces a variety of tasks and responsibilities that broaden both her professional experience and the library’s reach and impact.

The program supports the library during Blair’s training and at the end of the program the aim is for Blair to be fully-trained to continue in the permanent role.

“I love the responsibility,” McFarlane said. “Organizing events such as author visits where I get to interact with the writers—it’s exciting to host an event that attracts people who don’t typically come into the library. Developing programs is creative and fun, particularly for kids.”

McFarlane enthusiastically takes the lead on activities ranging from the summer reading program to an upcoming STEAM initiative (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). She also helps promote the library in various ways.

It’s not always about being inside the library, of course. With an eye on community outreach, McFarlane regularly leaves home base armed with books, crafts and other activities to visit more distant Columbia Valley communities, such as to the Village of Canal Flats.

It’s trips like these that excite McFarlane the most. With an inspired gleam in her eye, she often asks, “What can we do next to take the library to the people?”

Above images: Community Outreach Library Assistant Blair McFarlane at work in the Invermere Public Library.

Story and photos courtesy Columbia Basin Trust

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