Kimberly McMunn, the CEO and head librarian with the North Hastings Public Library, made a presentation to the Faraday Township council at their council meeting on March 3. Jane Graham and David Giles, the Faraday Township community representatives with the library were also in attendance. She gave council an overview of the library’s past year dealing with COVID-19 and the difficulties it has presented, the funding for experiential learning opportunities and the recently announced funding for the new library build and how the build will proceed this September.
McMunn thanked Faraday for their support in 2020, especially in light of the difficulties imposed by COVID-19. Faraday has a contract for service, and contributes their Public Library Operating Grant (based on the library’s submission of annual statistics) and an annual operational budget, for $5,595 and $27,000 respectively.
McMunn says that if Faraday pulled their funding, the library would lose one or two employees. She also revealed that the PLOG amount has not increased since 1997, when she first started in the library sector.
“Occasionally, we do receive funds for technology upgrades, but money for collections and wages have never increased. This is part of the reason we are so grateful for municipal support,” she says.
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the town of Bancroft and the township of Limerick also contribute to varying degrees to the library’s operations.
In the fall of 2019, McMunn says the library applied for ICIP funding for the new build to the library. Due to COVID-19 and its effects, the announcement on this was delayed, but the NHPL found out recently that they had indeed gotten the funding for it.
In the spring of 2020, they were ordered to close their doors because of the emerging pandemic, but she says that even with their doors closed, they were able to connect with their patrons online.
“We created barriers within the building and some social distancing. And if you’d been in the building in the last little while, you know how difficult it is to social distance in a building that’s cramped,” she says.
The library staff did a major collection overhaul, according to McMunn, as they still had hopes of moving at any time, and didn’t want to take anything that didn’t need to go along, as it will be a big move.
With a gradual shift in learning styles in the last year due to COVID-19, McMunn says the library moved to an experiential style of learning. She elaborates on the funding put aside for this experiential learning, which she calls learning with manipulatives.
“The library has a trust that was developed by Doreen MacPhee. The principal is $25,000 and every year we draw interest and reinvest the principal. Years ago, it would put a couple of extra thousand in our collection budget, but now we receive about $500 annually,” she says.
McMunn says the money must be invested in something that promotes literacy and learning, hence it’s use for experiential learning. In addition to games, puzzles, Lego, and various other things, there’s a new lineup of learning tools she found out about after speaking with a supplier last week.
“They’re called STEAM kits; Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Up until now, we have been providing DIY instructions for STEAM learning. I am hoping to invest in the kits if the budget supports it. In a few months, they will be doing HOME-SCHOOLING kits. I am very excited to see these as we are hoping to offer lots of curriculum support and programming in our new learning commons in the new build. Can you tell I am excited about the potential growth of library services?” she says.
In the fall of 2020, McMunn told council that they had unfortunately accepted the resignation of Louise Graf, who had leave to tend to her ailing husband. Taking on the job was Natalie Phillips.
“She’s come in with a fresh utility and a little more experience with online marketing and promotions and she’s just in the last couple of weeks started to revamp a little bit of our marketing online. So, we’re excited about moving forward with that,” she says.
The library opened its doors fully for the first time since the closure on March 2, according to McMunn, as before they’d had curbside pickup and allowing patrons to come in as the government would allow.
The library’s budget was impacted as they couldn’t generate funds from the public, according to McMunn. However, they did get donations, and out of these donations were able to move some of their operational direction into online services. They added the Canadian Reference Centre Britannica online for students. They added two DIY sites; a hobbies and crafts site and a home improvement site, as they recognized that to keep people’s mental health in good order, they needed something to occupy their time while they’re isolating.
McMunn told council that they were also fortunate to get two grants; one for $10,000, which they used to replace their computers, keyboards and mice, and another one for $12,500 which they used to upgrade their books and support materials to help students with their curriculum.
Also, in the spring of 2020, the library board challenged her to find a new leadership style.
“In the two years or so since my return, I’ve been able to get operations back on track, but the culture of our library has been lacking,” she says.
Consequently, in the fall of 2020, she took a Resilience Civic Leadership course, which teaches compassionate integrity training for civic leaders.
She obtained her certificate in Nov. 2020, and signed on for a facilitation compassionate integrity training course in January.
“When my board received an order to change the culture of the library, we needed to start from the grassroots, and that’s why we’re taking this course through this time,” she says.
McMunn also spoke about the funding the library recently received to build a brand-new facility. The new North Hastings public library will be housed in an accessible 4,000 square foot community hub, which will be a three-storey mixed use building. In addition to the library and the community hub, there will be 20 affordable housing units. The Canadian government invested $749,960 in this project through the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada plan, while the provincial government pitched in $624,904, and the town of Bancroft put in $500,036.
The NHPL will also be changing its automation software, which will allow them to do a lot more, like a mobile service, adding new libraries to the mix and assisting with community room bookings.
They also plan to expand the library offerings significantly and those items will be RFID compatible. With a lot more technology being acquired which will be quite expensive, they also intend to have a security system to protect it. In addition, there will be a new library website and Facebook page to engage the community.
In answer to a question from Deputy Mayor Marg Nicholson, McMunn says they plan to break ground on the new library in September.
“That’s the plan. We’ve already had surveys done with the land. We’re working on an environmental assessment to go though. But it’s all in place,” she says.
Nicholson also asked about the 20 affordable housing units and who would be the landlord for those. McMunn replied that the Town of Bancroft will be responsible for the bottom floor and their parking lot, while the developer building the new space will be responsible for the top two floors, including the housing units and their parking area.
“We’ll try to combine some services if we can,” she says.
McMunn finished by noting that they were celebrating 120 years of public service and that they were embracing the new year and continuing to serve the public.
“We hope to see you and all your community will join us in that adventure. We want to see you in the fall and we want you to be part of it. We would like to hear as many voices as possible putting their thoughts forward. It’s a public space and it’s not going to be used by a select few. It’s going to be very dynamic, it’s going to be multi-purpose,” she says.
McMunn thought the presentation went well, although she was underwhelmed by the lack of questions from council.
“After Faraday’s council was over, I bumped into one of the councillors by chance, downtown. They told me it was a good presentation but there is an underlying issue they’re dealing with and I took a hit this time. It was good of them to share. Typically, Faraday has lots of questions and I almost always have to bring back answers to them,” she says. “It was highly unusual this year and I look forward to them returning to the vibrant council they are.”
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times