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8 - PRAIRIE POST - SPECIAL AREAS - June 2013 Regional system crucial for rural libraries


With a population of more than 250,000 serving an area more than 53,000 square kilometres, rural libraries in Special Areas are still finding unique ways to survive and thrive to the benefit of many residents. “Residents value their local libraries because they are a community focal point and a place that everyone in the community can go — open to all,” says Michelle Toombs, CEO of Marigold Library System in an email interview. “Libraries are people places and have much more to offer than book shelves.” The libraries in the Special Areas

were the first 15 to actually form the Marigold system. That system provides expert and cost-effective library services which benefits every member library. Thanks to technology, a lot of small libraries can succeed. Those people who have a library card can get service in person, but also online no matter where they live in the area. Although a small library may only

be able to house a certain number of books, through library systems residents have access to the titles in the more than 300 libraries in the province. “Marigold’s partnership with

three other regional libraries called TRAC (Peace, Northern Lights and Yellowhead), makes this a customer- friendly and efficient process because we share the same library software and online catalogue for 175 libraries,” explains Toombs. Patrons can see what is available and place their requests. Those materials are delivered for free to the local library where the patron resides and can be dropped off at the local library and returned to the owning library. Smaller libraries have also benefitted

through the RISE videoconference project. Every Marigold library was equipped with high-definition equipment worth more than $10,000. “This opens up our world for

fascinating programs, business, health and legal information, training, meetings, private consultations and more — bringing information and feeling connected to every small community in Special Areas,” points out Toombs. Staff in small libraries, who often

work alone or with one other person, can gain valuable insight and information from colleagues through Small Libraries with Big Hearts meetings hosted by Marigold. A recent

Marigold Libraries workshop had more than 80 staff attend to listen to speakers, one of whom travelled from Michigan. With the rise in popularity of ebooks, more than 75,000 titles were downloaded by Marigold cardholders in 2012. There are several databases where ebooks can be downloaded for free by library cardholders as well as training for residents who want to learn how to use their e-readers. “E-audio books are also popular because of the driving distances in the Special Areas,” adds Toombs. Through Marigold services, residents also have access to provincial resources such as MANGO language learning software and Press Display which is access to newspapers from around the world, whether in the library or their own homes. is also available, but for use only in the libraries.

Marigold also provides a books by mail program called Library 2 You that is free. It is intended for people who live quite a distance from a library or who are homebound. Marigold provides the catalogue and takes the requests by phone. The books are then mailed to patrons with Marigold picking up the tab for the delivery and return of the items by mail. There are also a number of paperback

deposits in Special Areas including Sibbald, New Brigden, Hemaruka, Altario and Homestead Coulee. These deposits work on the honour system with Marigold providing best- selling paperbacks every month and at least 50 more paperbacks each year. Staff work with local volunteers who look after the deposits and Marigold staff also make a yearly trip to tune up the collections. While it can always be a struggle for small libraries to find funding, Toombs is confident in the future. “Marigold is financially stable,” she

says. “Libraries, large and small, make an extraordinary effort to stretch every dollar. Special Areas is generous in their support of their libraries and we hope that trend can continue. Marigold is certainly grateful for this.” Toombs adds libraries are vital to communities, especially small villages. “One wonders about the future of small villages in Alberta, knowing that they all work hard to be viable and sustainable. That is why having a library in those communities is so important — the library is central to the identity of each and every community.”

Below, this is the children’s corner of the Empress library. Photo submitted

There are many children’s programs offered in Delia’s library, such as this one offered by video conference through the RISE Network. Below, reading to children is one activity at Cereal’s library.

Lee and Sandy Paley entertained children as part of the summer reading program in Oyen’s library in 2011.

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