PORT AUX BASQUES, NL – The Port aux Basques branch of Newfoundland and Labrador’s public libraries is stereotypically quiet.
The loudest noise is coming from librarian Tammy Musseau’s keyboard, rhythmic clicking backed by the low hum from the fluorescent lights overhead.
Musseau pauses to show the different rows of book. She straightens a few battered paperbacks for sale on a shelf before showing off a colourful table display of children’s literature.
Everything is in its place and designed to draw the attention of a particular reader.
But like most smaller community libraries, the Port aux Basques branch offers much more than books, and its resources have been accessed by people from as far away as Latvia, a European country on the Baltic Sea.
“Winter we get a lot of locals. Summer we get a few tourists,” says Musseau. “We’ve had some people from as far away as Latvia pop in to check their email and pay their bills while they’re on vacation.”
In the summertime Musseau will give visiting tourists a pin to indicate their home on a map near the library’s front entrance.
“It’s nice to see at the end of the summer.”
When they’re not surfing the net, tourists like buying books to take with them. Summer boaters who sail around the island, for example, don’t always have access to the internet and it’s unlikely they can return a book once they’re finished reading it.
“Our Harlequins go out quite a bit,” says Musseau.
The library hosts regular book sales as a sort of low-key fundraiser, which the board will use to buy more books or fund programs. Readers can fill a regular sized plastic grocery bag for $5.
When it comes to the library’s programs, story time is the big draw. During story time kids play games, sing, make crafts and play with finger puppets. Musseau says parents are instrumental in making lasting memories with their children.
“Our main goal is to instill a love of reading, because once you’ve got that love that reading it’s hard to satisfy it with anything else.”
The library offers free programs for every age level, not just children. These range from adult colouring to sit and knit evenings. These adult programs are usually held when children are still in school, and the library even provides refreshments.
“It gives adults time to socialize without the kids being there,” said Musseau.
There’s also a video game night for teens, which is becoming increasingly popular.
And then there’s the Thursday computer classes, which may prove particularly handy for seniors struggling to open an email attachment to see a grandchild’s photo.
“It’s basics,” said Musseau. “We show them what a computer is, the gist of what a computer is, email.”
Musseau can train up to six people at once, teaching them simple tasks such as how to use Facebook or download photos from cameras.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot for the person that can use a computer but when you don’t know anything, it’s huge. I used to give them homework, (make them) go home on their computers and send me something through email or whatever, and they loved it.”
So far only one person has signed up for this computer session, and ideally Musseau would like to see more participants for some of the programs.
Some programs have never really taken off, like a book club or writing club.
Although the library has a Facebook page, there’s not usually lot of time to spend online other than to update it or answer questions. And the library is always trying new things to serve the region. Sometimes a couple of programs will be taking place in the library at the same time.
“We’re trying to fit in as much as we can,” said Musseau, who often suggests ideas for local programs to the library board. “We’re limited as to how much we can do because of overlapping hours.”
“Story time is a huge, huge hit,” offers parent Christa, a teacher who has relocated to Port aux Basques from St. John’s. Today she has popped by the library to scan some documents for emailing. Her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Brooking, dearly loves story time, and is a huge fan of the stackable red chairs the kids use.
“My daughter has been coming to the library for story time and it was a chance for me, as someone new, to meet some other mothers and for my child to make some friends.”
Story time is not just something the kids enjoy.
“I look forward to it because every one of them has got their own little personality,” says Musseau. “I love it. It’s definitely the best part of my job.”
All of the Port aux Basques library’s programs are free.
2:30 - 4:30 p.m. – Adult Colouring Social. Refreshments provided. Colouring sheets available on request.
7:30 - 8:30 p.m. – Teen Video Club. Teenagers are invited to come out and socialize while playing an online video game with each other.
2:30 - 4:30 p.m. – Sit & Knit. Socialize with fellow knitters while enjoying some free tea or coffee.
7:30 – 8:30 p.m. – Computer Class. Come and learn some basic computer skills. Learn to conquer Facebook and send emails.
1:00 – 4:00 pm – Drop in Play. Children ages 0 to 5 are invited to play together and develop social skills while parents socialize nearby.
10:30 am – Storytime. Children ages 0 to 5 are invited to sing, play and read together.