The Medicine Hat Public Library will reopen its doors again Monday, in line with the province’s newest update on COVID regulations.
Even though the library has gone through several major closures since last spring, staff have kept busy with online orders.
“We’re really thankful to the community for keeping us running in that form,” said Gillian Reimer, head of marketing services. “But we’re really excited to have people back in the building now and have the conversations we used to have and chat with people like we used to and, you know, just get back to some semblance of normalcy.”
Head librarian Ken Feser recalls the first online order filled. He had a patron whose father was visually impaired, isolated at home, nothing to do for days on end, who called him personally and pleaded for some of the library’s CNIB books.
“How can you say no to that,” said Feser.
Both Feser and Reimer say the community has been quite generous during the difficult periods of closure for the library.
“We just did our annual report and … we had a huge uptick of small donations,” said Feser. “We get lots of people coming in and giving us $20, $10, whatever amount, but this year the number of those just skyrocketed.”
Reimer spoke of local realtor Elizabeth McNally’s donation of $6,500.
“The Real Estate Collective has sponsored library cards, so they gave us that $6,500 donation so we can give free library cards,” Reimer said. “It’s been a little tricky now that we’ve been closed again to try and get those cards in hand but as soon as we reopen we’re just going to be really pushing those free library cards out the door. We’re so thankful to her.”
Another donation, by the Kinsmen, involved $159,000 over two years, Feser said. The library has used the second instalment of $79,000 this year to replace flooring and paint in the kids area, and add artwork and “sound clouds” hanging from the ceiling to help buffer sound from the Co-op Play Space, which the Kinsmen donation also built.
“We’re opening now, but there are still restrictions, we’re not out of the woods yet, and we’re also doing more projects,” Feser said. “We’re going to be replacing the flooring in the adult area, moving shelving around, painting the whole rest of the library. So all through the summer it’s going to be kind of a construction zone.”
Bug Town, which Feser says most Hatters should remember, has been re-imagined by local artist Wendy Struck, who also made shadow boxes and painted a large mural on the wall in the kids area.
“At various times we’ve had access control, like the stores do, but I don’t see that coming back at this point,” Feser said. “It will be limited at first; we won’t have all the programming that we normally do … And again, bear with us over the summer and stuff; it’ll be a little disrupted … but let’s look forward to some real fun in the fall.”
The library will reopen June 14, with hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Both Feser and Reimer look forward to the future when they can bring the whole community together for an event.
“Once the renovations are complete throughout the whole library, hopefully by that time we can have some sort of big celebration and invite the whole community back and get everybody signed up for their library cards.”
Lauren Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News