Sioux Lookout Public Library issues winter bucket list challenge

The Sioux Lookout Public Library wants to reintroduce itself to the community.

It’s updating both its programming and refreshing its physical space in order to welcome kids and adults back after being closed so long during the COVID-19 pandemic, said CEO Shawn Bethke.

“We really wanted to both change the physical nature of the building and the services to reflect that the public library in Sioux Lookout should be a living room for this community to come in,” he said adding people should have a public place to go without the expectation of purchasing anything. “It's just what libraries do.”

Some of the programming to start this year includes a video game club, expanding story time program for kids, adult show and tell, and a winter bucket list challenge.

Bethke said the library is also trying to engage people who might not necessarily come there by doing such things as partnering with Ontario Parks to offer annual passes for users to check out with a library card and holding a local artists showcase series.

Bethke they created the winter bucket list challenge with newcomers in mind.

“It's hard for newcomers when they come to a remote location to get involved, particularly in a small community,” he said, including himself in the group, having arrived in September.

“I know the municipality and other organizations here have been looking for ways to engage newcomers who come to Sioux Lookout to get them to understand what's available in the community.”

Bethke said Sioux Lookout is a large outdoor community.

“We've learned how to love the winter, not fear it,” he said. “So wintertime here is a very active outdoor time.”

He said they are asking people to participate outdoors by going skiing, snow shoeing, and snowmobiling.

“Just myself, this last weekend, I crossed [Abram Lake] by foot. [It’s] the first time I've ever crossed the frozen lake,” he said. “It was quite an interesting experience.”

He said some highlights on the bucket list include climbing Lookout Mountain for a great vantage point of the town, participating in culture night at the Indigenous Friendship Centre, going out to Cedar Bay for some hot chocolate prepared over an open fire, and visiting Hudson with its beautiful historic sawmill.

Another item is going curling for free on an outdoor rink set up by a local resident who has done so for the past four to five years. Bethke described the outdoor curling rink overlooking a northern lake as one of the most beautiful settings people will ever get to experience in Canada.

“Of course, for ourselves, we're asking people to get a library card at the public library,” he said. “That's one of the purposes why we're doing this. To introduce themselves to us and help us introduce them to the community.”

Bethke said the library is also trying engage with parents and children by bringing back the popular story time and re-introducing after school programming with the video game club.

Assistant librarian Nancy McCord, who runs the video game club, said anyone 11 years old and up can sign up for slots for the program that will run on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

“We're doing an eight-week program just to try it out see how it goes,” she said. “My children attended it years ago and just absolutely loved it.”

She said the library has purchased a PlayStation 4 video game system and also has an Xbox and a Nintendo Wii available along with PC computers for gamers to use. She said the program is also for kids who might not have video game systems at home.

“We're just trying to get the library to be really a hang out place where you can come in and feel safe and maybe meet some new friends and learn something while you're here,” she said.

Another activity Bethke said the library is ramping up to do is a nerf gun war program.

“We're going to have kids in here when the library is closed and we'll be allowing them to run around, like a paint ball thing, with nerf guns and firing at each other and stuff,” he said.

“So I think that's going be a lot of fun and engaging.”

Other changes the library has made as well include launching a new website this week and changing policies like the elimination of overdue fines back in November.

“We’ll be uploading photos to that new website, getting people to go there and check out what we're offering through that website. Primarily, we've been using facebook because we had an old website that was out of date and wasn't easy to update. So now our facebook [posts] will automatically go to the website.”

Bethke said they’ve made updates to the physical space as well to look new and ready to go.

“We've been refurbishing the building. We've had painting done,” he said. “We have some new furniture. Some new comfortable seating.”

He said people are going to see a very different library from what they've experienced in the past.

“We're going to have new programs, new furniture, new painted walls,” he said. “It's going to be exciting for people and we're looking forward to showing them everything we've done.”

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source