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Treasured N.S. library gets a helping hand with final checkout

Bridgewater, N.S., residents have checked out 6,000 books and will return them to a new library when it opens in January.

Paul Darrow/The Globe and Mail

Residents in this town of 8,200 on Nova Scotia's South Shore are making their way downtown, traipsing into the old red brick library, filling two cloth bags each with their favourite titles and taking them home.

On Monday, 1,000 books were loaned out, compared to 200 usually at this time of year. By Thursday, 6,000 more books had been loaned. By Friday morning, shelves were almost bare – but for 3,000 books to be moved before the library closes forever on Saturday afternoon. All week the people of Bridgewater have been moving their public library – person by person, book by book.

"It's just a small-town thing, which I love about it," says Jack Logan, a retired economic development officer, who was at the library early Friday morning, putting books by writers John Grisham and John Sandford into his two bags. He and his wife, Marilyn, were responding to a call to action. "We're just here to do our little bit of helping," he says.

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Bridgewater is getting a new library – a sleek, state-of-the-art space in the town's new, $34-million Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre. Located in a business park, about a three-minute drive from downtown, it opens on Jan. 2. It will be more than twice the size of the old place, holding 50,000 books. Meanwhile, the 100-year-old former library – once a Bank of Commerce (the washroom was once the vault) – will become a Thai restaurant.

As a way of saying goodbye to a treasured place, library officials came up with the idea of engaging the public in the move. They asked that residents each fill two bags with books, extended the lending time from three weeks to six weeks and asked residents to keep the books over Christmas and return them to the new library some time in January.

For their help, residents get to keep the cloth bags and receive a tuque with the library's logo.

"We have a lot of patrons who are going to miss this place and we thought it was a great way for them to have some closure," says Troy Myers, the CEO and chief librarian of the South Shore Public Libraries. "People have really embraced it."

Mr. Myers is in awe of how a conversation about the move with two members of the library board turned into such a success. Last weekend, the local radio station, CKBW, ran public service announcements, asking the townspeople for their help. The same announcement was posted on the library's Facebook page.

Residents were hooked, and library staff have already run out of the 800 bags and 300 tuques they ordered. They are pretty confident they will reach their target of moving 10,000 titles.

An added bonus: "We found new borrowers out of this, which I think is incredibly wonderful," notes Marion Moore, the library's branch co-ordinator.

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Ms. Moore and her colleague, Cathy Macdonald, who has worked for the library for 34 years, are excited about the move. The library has been in this downtown building since 1984 – many features of the bank, including the tellers' windows and thick mouldings remain.

"This building has served a good, good use … [but] it's time to move on," Ms. Macdonald says.

In a world full of tablets and Twitter, Mr. Myers believes libraries are more important than ever.

"I think people need a place to gather and share ideas and you need places like libraries which really don't have any bias," he says. "We welcome everybody without prejudice. I think again in the information age where you want to encourage people to meet, places like libraries become that much more vibrant and important."

Mr. Logan, meanwhile, says his wife loves to read on the computer, and a lot of his friends have tablets. Not him. "When you hop on an airplane," he says, "and you walk down the aisle, everybody's got a tablet, but I still carry a book."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More


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