Essa Township library still one way for residents to save a buck

As the economy continues to wreak havoc with family budgets across the region, local libraries are becoming exponentially more important.

With every 17 cent-per-litre gas increase, families have less money available for recreational or educational needs.

Many of them are turning to their local library for more than just a good book.

“Today’s library is so much more than it was when I was growing up,” Judith Hunter, chair of the Essa Public Library Board, said during an afternoon chat at the Angus branch. “The modern library is a place where you can read a book, listen to a book, use a computer, discover crafts or learn how to play a musical instrument.

“Teens can get their volunteer hours in here," she added. “And, we have a 3D printer.”

According to Hunter, library staff have been working tirelessly to ensure Essa’s libraries are welcoming places where visitors are made to feel comfortable and safe.

They reconfigured the space at both branches — Thornton and Angus — to make them more inviting and more efficient.

The space where we’re chatting in the Angus branch is open and airy, the colours and finishes bright and contemporary.

Work stations are arranged against a wall of windows.

Charger stations are available for laptops and phones and there’s a constant hum of chatter and hushed conversation.

The modern vibe appears to be working.

In the library’s annual report to Essa Township council, delivered this past week, more than 12,000 people attended library events — an increase of more than 50 per cent over 2022.

The library offered almost 650 programs and circulated almost 83,000 items.

More importantly, the library saved the community $1.5 million — the value of the items borrowed.

“In a time of high inflation where so many people are struggling, Essa Public Library is one of the last places where the public can access books, DVDs, games, social activities, and many other programs at no charge,” Hunter wrote in the board’s annual report.

A member of the library board for 15 years and chair for the past four, Hunter said the Essa Public Library has benefited greatly from the relationship the board has with township council.

“It’s not just this one,” she said. “We have been blessed to be able to work with councils over the years that have really supported what we want to do.

“Libraries and councils should be looking to do similar things - enrich the lives of the folks who live here," Hunter added. “We’ve been fortunate and we’ve been successful by letting each other flourish."

Last year, the Essa Public Library added almost 1,200 new members.

That number is expected to increase annually, as Essa continues to be a destination for younger families trying to find economical housing.

In an effort to ensure those folks moving into the region are accounted for and their needs considered, Hunter and the board is creating a strategic plan that will guide the library’s work over the next few years.

It’s a daunting task, but they say it has to be done if the library is going to be successful in the future.

“The first thing you have to do is remove ego and say ‘what exactly is it that we’re doing?,'” Hunter said. “We have to remain relevant to the people who use this service. Sometimes that means you have to abandon some of the things you were doing.

“It can be difficult, but we need to be constantly evolving to meet resident needs," she added.

To find out what those needs are, the library will be hosting a community survey from May 1 to 10. More information on the survey will be found on the library website closer to the start of the survey.

Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,