Wednesday, December 15, 2010

T'was the Week Before Christmas

T’was the week before Christmas
And my what a bustle
Library patrons were
Starting to hustle
And stock up on books
To read o’er Yule;
They were checking out tomes
Like lit-starved fools.
The Circ Clerk was harried.
The Page was agog,
But the Director was counting
Up stats with a nod.
And happy to see that the
Stats were a-climbing
She took to her blog
And started a-rhyming.
Composing this ditty
To post with a click
As homage to Patterson,
And that Evanovich chick
And Cussler and Steel,
Salvatore and Cookson,
Grisham and Grafton
And Cornwell and Brooks ‘n’
Kootnz and King and
Deaver and Reichs
And Clancy and Francis
And Coben and Whyte
And Ludlow and Thor
And McCafffery, too
Kellerman, Roberts and
McCall-Smith (wouldn’t you?)
And all of the authors
That keep people up nights
Turning the pages filled with
Romance or frights.
And when she was done
She turned with a smile
And looked o’er her domain
With pride for a while
“I truly am blessed,”
She said with a tear
“Happy holidays to all
And a Happy New Year!”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Little Local Food Never Hurt Anybody

I would be remiss if I didn’t hop back in time a bit and talk about an event that happened within my walls some weeks back. The event was joyfully attended by a small group of enthusiastic connoisseurs of local victuals who gathered to share an evening repast of some significance. The menu was unpretentious, consisting as it did of ingredients indigenous to an area not more than 100 miles away from the table on which it was served. The event to which I refer bore the modern and relevant appellation: The 100-Mile Diet Potluck Dinner and was organized to raise awareness of the variety of foodstuffs available to the budding locavore.

Eating locally is a challenge no matter where one might reside, but in the Bulkley Valley, it seems, it is vital that, to be successful, the locavore must enjoy meat and vegetables, particularly since the availability of anything else is somewhat limited. Coffee, many fruits, dairy products, grains and the all-important chocolate are either completely unattainable or require some sleuthful acumen to unearth and acquire. Seasonings are tricky, too. Where does one get salt, for instance?

While the group dined on meatballs, cabbage salad, kale, potatoes, apple sauce, pumpkin and raspberry/rhubarb pie, it struck me that some of these revelers in locavorism would be hard-pressed to sustain such a regimen if, for some unfathomable reason, they had no choice. Being used to a wide range of fruits, breads, pastas, cheeses, coffees, teas, and the ever-versatile sugar, going local would create its own unique form of withdrawal. Then again, I devour high-voltage electricity, sulphur-injected natural gas and, of course good books, none of which (except for a few of the books) are locally produced. I’m not at all certain that I could survive on a 100-mile diet…

Is the growing phenomenon of self-sustainability a portentous one? Will the future bring a halt to imported delicacies? Will grocery stores become a thing of the past? I have no idea, but it does seem that the paradigm in food production and distribution is shifting. (And here I’ll slide in the literacy angle…) Tomes such as The Zero Mile Diet, Locavore and Just Food are among the first (no doubt there will be more) publications to discuss local eating and educate people on how to do it. From growing your own, to bartering for food, “experts” are emerging and publishers are rallying to the cause to ensure that you, the reader, are duly educated.

I will leave you now with some photographic evidence that eating local fare is entirely possible.
And a lot of fun, too!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Many Blessings of HPL

The holidays are fast approaching. Only 23 more sleeps until the big day arrives, explodes in our faces and passes again, leaving many in a daze for days.

The staff has been bustling about decorating me for the past week or so. There are gorgeous paper snowflakes hanging from my ceiling, a gaily decorated tree stands between the two couches in the sitting area, garland and wreaths and pine boughs and stockings dangle, drape and dress counters, shelves and tables. It’s all so very festive! One thing about December – display topics are a no-brainer.

As I watch my patrons come and go, I’m already seeing signs of the strain this particular holiday etches on the lives of so many. The pressure is building. The race is on. The bank accounts are draining. It makes me rather glad that I’m a 5000 square foot building and not a shopper. I intend, as I do every year, to let the mad rush pass me by and spend a few quiet days with… oh, about 24,000 good books.

I’ll be all alone. Santa will not be sliding down my chimney, nor will he be leaving any be-ribboned gifts under the tree for me. But I’m not complaining; I’ve been blessed this year with so many cool things, it’s hard to imagine Christmas morning being any more exciting.

Bev Lyons of the Pleasant Valley Restaurant donated a theatre-style popcorn machine for use during the NID Matinees and other programming. The Friends of the Library purchased a new pre-lit Christmas tree and contributed to the purchase of new tables and chairs for the Canfor Room. The BV Foundation also provided a grant toward the tables and chairs. The Regional District of Bulkley Nechako and Telus gave money to buy a 77” electronic white board and multi-media projector. The District of Houston is upgrading my electrical and adding floor plugs in the sitting area. And the BV Credit Union donated eight guest chairs and new furniture for the Children’s area. I don’t think that Santa could do any better than that! As far as libraries go, especially small libraries, I, HPL, am extremely fortunate. I have a supportive board, dedicated staff, wonderful patrons and happen to have been built in a great community.

If you are planning on dropping in over the next couple of weeks, there are two donation boxes waiting to be filled. One is for the Salvation Army food bank and the other is for the Houston Link to Learning Book Under Every Tree program. So, please do stop by and help fill these two very important donation boxes.

Oh, I almost forgot… the coffee is always on at HPL, along with tea or hot chocolate. So if you care to browse the shelves in search of some great holiday reading material and would like a little refreshment while you do, I’m more than happy to oblige.

In case I don’t get a chance to post another blog before then, have a very safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Break-in at the Library

It is with much sadness and regret that today I must report on the mis-deeds of person or persons unknown. Sometime during the night of Friday, November 19 or early morning Saturday, November 20, the library was broken into. A quantity of cash was stolen, including the donation box that sat on the circulation desk and the door from the main library to the staff room was damaged when the thief(s) chiseled out the lock.

It is believed that the perp(s) unlocked a side window sometime while the library was opened and entered through it. The goal was money, but the library’s blue ray player was also found missing. Oddly, though, the blue ray player was later discovered sitting on top of the magazine shelf next to the emergency exit that the thief(s) left through. I guess climbing back out the window was too much work!

The break in was discovered by a library employee, who had come in to do some printing before the library opened. Upon finding the staff room door splintered and the lock gone, the employee called the Chief Librarian, who, after telling the employee not to touch anything, rushed to the scene of the crime.

The RCMP were notified and responded to the report shortly before noon on Saturday. The investigating constable photographed the scene and took several items to finger print in hopes of catching the culprit(s). Ident declined to come to the library, stating that if they were to find any prints it would be on the items taken into evidence. The discovery of the blue ray player was duly reported to the police as well. It sits, still, on the shelf, waiting to become evidence in the crime some five hours after the call was made to the RCMP.

The extent of the outfall from this burglary is yet to be determined. Staff members are left feeling violated and suspicious. There is a pall over the library that hasn’t been there before. Programs have had to be cancelled. The NID Matinee cannot go on without the blue ray player and telling the kids who look forward to the free movie and popcorn is going to be hard for the staff. The Canfor Room cannot be rented out to groups until the staff room can be secured again.

This hurtful betrayal of trust will, I’m sure, have long-term effects. It is unlikely that the criminal(s) will ever be caught, much less made to make restitution for the loss and the damage that was caused.

What makes someone do such a thing? A library is supposed to be a safe place. The staff work hard to make patrons feel welcome and to provide a warm and inviting atmosphere for any and all who walk through the door. To be repaid in such a manner is heartbreaking.

But there is still so much to be thankful for and appreciated and the staff have not lost sight of the good things their jobs entail. The smile on children’s faces when they find the perfect book to read or DVD to watch. The kindness and gratitude of the patrons. The joy of expressing themselves creatively through programs and displays. The satisfaction of helping people find great books or sound information. Library work is fun, challenging and interesting. There is always something new to learn and exciting to share.

In spite of this unpleasant incident, HPL is forging ahead with great programs and services for everyone. It remains a Community Place!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let's Keep 'em Hopping

Wow! I can’t believe that it’s been three whole months since I’ve posted anything. Sheesh! But in my own defense, it has been a busy three months! My staff, board and patrons have been kept hopping and I have to say that I kind of like all the hopping!

Just this past Monday and Tuesday, I listened in while our Chief Librarian, Toni McKilligan participated in a virtual workshop on Social Media. The exciting possibilities discussed in the workshop inspired me to take some time this chilly Thursday evening and revive my blogging skills. While Toni jotted down sources and resources for expanding our Social Media presence, I decided to set up a new Facebook account for HPL. It was high time, I thought, to give HPL its own FB page and now Toni is charged with the task of training the staff to use it to promote me! She’s probably thinking that she doesn’t need anything else on her plate at the moment, but she’s a trooper; I’m sure she’ll figure it out. (You can check out the new FB page here:!/pages/Houston-BC/Houston-Public-Library/176164105732299)

The staff are all busy these days. Adele is currently enjoying the creative side of librarianship. She’s making 3D snowflakes to hang from my drop ceiling. They will add a festive touch to the up-coming holiday season that is coming at us faster than Alexander McCall Smith can pump out books! (How many has he published this year?) And she’s keeping up with all the other stuff Assistant Librarians do, too.

Mrs. Erna is busy with Mother Goose, Toddler Time and Story Time. These programs are already in their sixth week and Mrs. Erna is already thinking about the wind-up party that will happen at Story Time on December 17th. She’s also keeping up with the many, many ILL requests that my patrons and other libraries make every day.
If there was a Master Shelver designation, it would belong to my favourite Page, Sara. This girl keeps my collection in perfect order so staff and patrons can easily find what they are looking for. She’s one of the most efficient Pages ever! And she’s pretty handy at covering the circ desk, ILL desk and any other desk when the need arises.

And Toni is busy planning ahead. She’s started working on the January Calendar of Events, getting it ready for distribution in mid-December. I don’t know how she keeps it all straight! Besides the finances and books and programs and scheduling and statistics and reports and e-mails and computer problems and meetings and … the list goes on! ... she somehow manages to lend me a hand (or two) now and then to write this blog.

I must say that I’ve been enjoying all this busyness and bustle. And I’m determined to do my part and keep those in Bloggerland up to date with what’s happening at HPL. My goal is a weekly post. (We’ll see how that goes!)

Anyway, if you have some time and would like to stop by for a visit, I’d be happy to open my doors to you and will welcome the company! There are some great new books on the shelves; some great old ones, too! (And together let's keep Toni, Adele, Erna and Sara hopping.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Community Place!

Summer programming is winding down (Whew!), affording us a short break before we rush into fall programming. Now if the weather would only give us a break!

This fall is shaping up to be an exciting one at HPL. New hours, new staff, new programs... It’s going to be a busy time in Libraryland!

On September 1st, the opening hours are changing just a little bit. We will still be open Tuesday through Saturday, but not quite as much. The new schedule looks like this:

Sunday/Monday – Closed
Tuesday – 12 to 7
Wednesday – 10 to 5
Thursday – 12 to 7
Friday – 10 to 7
Saturday – 12 to 4

We’ll also be welcoming a new staff member in September. But I’ll share more about her in another blog!

Events and programming, though, are lining up at the starting gate, eager to make the dash into autumn. Full details on all of our September programs and events can be found at: But let me just touch on a few of the highlights that are coming up...

Returning programs are Yarn It All!, Community Conversations, NID Matinees and – of course! – Book Club. For those of you who are not familiar with any of these programs, they are open to all community members and are, for the most part, free. Admission to the NID Matinees is by donation, which helps to cover the costs of the movies, the popcorn and the public performance license so we can show them. Yarn It All! meets twice monthly – on the second and fourth Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. – and is open to any and all fibre artists from novice to expert. At Yarn It All! we share, learn and teach each other. Community Conversation is held on the third Tuesday of the month and features a different topic of interest to our community. It’s a place and time to gain awareness, share insights and discuss what is happening in the world and it’s effects on our town. This month we are exploring the 100-mile Diet and planning for the 100-mile Diet Dinner that is coming up in October. Book Club meets on the first Wednesday of every month from September to June. We have an amazing line-up of titles this year. You can see them on our web site at: Everyone is welcome!

New to the programming line-up is the Writer’s Guild. Our first meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 14th from 6 to 8 p.m. The theme for the inaugural meeting is “I Am!” and attendees are asked to write a short story or poem to share as a way of introducing themselves. From there, members will be asked what they want from the Guild and how they would like to see it run and organized. We already have tons of ideas, but we definitely want the members to take ownership and have fun.

There are several events on the agenda for September as well!

The Friends of the Library are hosting a Book Sale in the mall on September 24th and 25th. Money raised at the sale will go to support HPL programs and services. If you have some time to spare and are interested in helping out at the sale, please call the library – 250-845-2256. We would really appreciate your assistance!

The Houston Literacy Committee has created the 2010-2011 Community Literacy Action Plan and they will be presenting it to the community at the library on Wednesday, September 8th from 4 to 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. Refreshments will served.

And Pamela Proctor, retired teacher and author of Hounouring the Child: Changing Ways of Teaching will be with us on Thursday, September 23rd from 7 to 9 p.m. Ms. Proctor taught in the Vancouver area for 35 years and in the course of her career, she developed a fresh approach to teaching along with some colleagues. Her Book is on sale at HPL for $20.00. We have a limited number of copies, so don’t delay! Get your copy right away!

It’s a full month with something for everyone in the community!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Reading Rocks!

It’s summer. And that means Summer Reading Club!

This year the provincial theme is Reading Rocks! What a great theme it is too. You should see our meeting room. It’s been transformed by our Summer Programming Assistant, Jessica, into a veritable party room. With silhouettes and real vinyl records and microphones and all manner of amazing decorations, the Canfor Room is definitely the place to be this summer. Especially if you are between the ages of 3 and 12.

Last week we kicked off the Summer Reading Club with our traditional Registration Day and to help us make it even more exciting than usual, Daryl Robb of Talking Lobster Productions and host of Down by the Docks (a cable TV show for children) took an audience of 50+ parents and kids on a Jungle Safari! It was an amazing hour of song and comedy as Daryl and his side-kick Leroy the Talking Lobster exchanged jokes and sang up a storm. Everyone left with a huge smile on his or her face.

As the summer progresses, Jessica has all sorts of great fun planned for the kids. Stories, games, crafts... there won’t be a dull moment from now until August 18th when we host the SRC Wind-up Party – another tradition at HPL. Join us then between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for a BBQ, awards, more games and more crafts. It’s going to be a Rockin’ good time as the participants show off their skills with an air band contest.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Long Lost Treasure is Found

Forty-five years ago, the Houston Public Library Association was incorporated as a public library under the Public Libraries Act. To make that incorporation official, a certificate of incorporation was issued by the Registrar of Companies in Victoria on January 28, 1965 and was dispatched via post along with a letter from R.L. Davison, Superintendent on February 4th.

There is no clear indication of what R.L. super-intended , though it is probably safe to assume it was the Public Library Commission, since it is on Public Library Commission letter head that the letter is neatly and perfectly typed on behalf of R.L. by mbs, whose initials follow R.L.’s in lower case – as illustrated - at the bottom of the page. (Remember when people actually had secretaries who typed their letters for them and added their lower-case initials at the end of the letters? Does that still happen?)

The certificate is printed on legal sized paper in black ink. It is numbered 79 and sports the large red seal of the office of the Registrar of Companies in the lower left-hand corner. Between the I Hereby Certify at the top and the Given at the bottom, a vast expanse of nothingness dominates the certificate. The certificate is obviously a generic form used by many departments of the government where master-typists fill in the blanks with awe-inspiring accuracy.

The letter is addressed to Mr. C.R. Matthews, Municipal Clerk, Houston, B.C. That is the actual address typed – again so amazingly perfectly – on both the letter and the envelope that it arrived in. Neither street nor box number appears anywhere, let alone a postal code. It cost the tax-payers forty-six cents to have the certificate delivered. And that was as Registered mail! There is a stamp with a large R above the mailing label with the number 7952 stamped within its borders – presumably to indicate that the letter was registered. But in case the average layman wasn’t certain about that, the word registered is also typed in red ink on the mailing label itself – presumably by the master-typist, mbs.

It took two days to get from Victoria to Houston. Two days! Imagine that. And with no box number, street address or postal code to guide it. Stamps on the back of the envelope track its progress from Victoria on February 4th to Prince George on February 5th and finally Houston on February 6th. Two days! That’s amazing. I am deeply impressed.

The reason I know so much about this certificate and the letter that accompanied it on it’s long journey from the provincial capital is because it is sitting on my desk next to my computer (with precious backspace and delete keys) in all of its original glory... Well, except for a few crinkles along the edges and a smidgeon of yellowing that is a natural result of aging in paper. I dare say that forty-five years is a fairly advanced age for these sorts of documents.

So why, you may ask, am I dithering on about this certificate and its accompanying letter? Well, because it probably hasn’t been seen since it was filed in the municipal office way back in 1965 when it was first received and duly acknowledged. The library has a faded mimeographed copy of the both of these documents and keeps them filed with the minutes from that time. But no one knew where the originals were or what had become of them.

Until last Tuesday, that is.

E, an employee of the District of Houston, stumbled across them while cleaning out some old files. L, also an employee of the District of Houston, called to see if I wanted them back. The rest, as they say, is history. Albeit, recent history.

Anyway, these long lost treasures have been found and are now in my charge. I will see to it the certificate is framed and prominently displayed. I will file the letter and the envelope safely away again – not because they are necessary or even important, but because they are interesting examples of clerical and postal efficiency from days gone by. (Two days!?)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Our Super Trustee

What does it take to be a Super Trustee? Well, in the case of HPL’s esteemed Chair, five years of service on the Board of Trustees, two of those as Chair, two years of service on the North Coast Library Federation (NCLF) Board as Chair and two years as a director for the BC Library Trustees Association (BCLTA). Not to mention endless hours of volunteer time at meetings and in consultation with Library directors, Federation Coordinators and fellow Trustees across the province. Natasha Brienen wears many hats in the provincial library world. And she does all this between taking care of her husband and four children.

At the BCLTA Annual General Meeting that was held in conjunction with the BC Library Association Spring Conference and Annual General Meeting this past April, Natasha was honoured with a Super Trustee Award. This award is presented annually to library trustees that have made major contributions to their libraries.

As presenter of the awards this year, keeping her nomination and award a secret from her was tricky. But the look on her face when Andy Ackerman, the Chair for the BCLTA, called her up to receive the reward was one of those priceless moments where one really should have had a camera ready. Alas, we were caught without photographic equipment and had to settle for the memory!

Natasha’s contribution to HPL, NCLF and the BCLTA have helped to shape library structure and leadership in the province. Her guidance and support are gratefully appreciated by the Chief Librarian at HPL and the Coordinator for the NCLF. Her voice at the provincial level ensures that library advocacy continues to reach the government and libraries continue to receive the support they need from it.

Now, it’s confession time...

This blog should have been done ages ago. I’ve been waiting for the photos from other camera-ready attendees. There have been some technical difficulties as well. But with the better-late-than-never adage rolling around in my head to assuage my guilt, here, at last, is the tribute to our wonderful and beloved Chairperson!

Congratulation, Natasha! You really are a Super Trustee!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You'll never guess what we're up to now

It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to do an update here. It’s not that nothing is happening; it’s more a matter of not having time to sit down and put together a coherent and interesting article to post.

Today, however, I feel compelled to make the time. Something really exciting has just happened and I want to share it. In these troubled financial times, fundraising is all the more important and all the more difficult. Everyone, it seems, has their hand out and people are tired of reaching into their pockets. The begging part isn’t all that fun, either. But a little creative inspiration goes a long way.

Yesterday, two of our staff members hit on an interesting theory. What if we sold some of the used books we have on eBay or Amazon? Hmmm... I had to admit that I was a little sceptical at first. EBay was definitely out, but I suggested that we do a little research and see what is involved in listing the books with Amazon.

Guess what? It’s not rocket science. Nor do you have to sign your life away. The registration process is relatively simple and for a small per-sale fee, Amazon handles all the money. You simply list your items and wait for a customer to come along to buy them. Once every two weeks, if any of your items have sold, Amazon pays out your cut. Well, I figured it was worth a try, so I signed HPL up and started listing books.

HPL has hundreds of books for sale on a continuing basis. For a donation patrons can carry away as many books as they like. (And the more the better!) We hold a big annual book sale in the mall, but there are tons (well, at least half a ton) of books stacked up in the storage room taking up valuable space. Many of these are donations and are in excellent condition. It is from these that we are choosing the items to list on Amazon.

We have no idea how it’s going to go; if we’ll even sell anything at all. We are hopeful, though! This is a free and easy way to expand our market and reach out to book lovers beyond the walls of the library. And if it boosts our revenues even by a couple hundred dollars a year... Well, I’d say it is worth the effort. We’ll see how it goes.

As for the staff members whose suggestion it was to give this a try, they have been rewarded with giant chocolate bars for their innovative idea.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Digital Storytelling

This is the digital age! Digital media is everywhere: Computers, cell phones, cameras, ipods, and TV are all digital. Even books can be found in digital formats. Yes, digitization is everywhere and part of nearly everything.

So it was hardly surprising that a Digital Storytelling Workshop was offered at the local college. Also not surprising, I had to take a couple of holiday days and attend it.

I had visions of creating some masterpiece of digital art. What I did create is the following short video:

Understand that this is a pretty rough first draft. I probably shouldn't even be sharing it just yeat, but I was so excited about what I learned, I just couln't help myself. The last two slides have some missing text. This, I assure you, was not my fault. There was some glitch with the software and it happened to several of the workshop participants. But that's okay. It was a fun beginner project and I'm amazed at how well lit turned out with less than two days to work on it.

With a little more practice and lots more patience, I plan on reworking this piece. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed it - even in it's highly amateur state!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blanketing Our Whole Community

It seems like many traditional crafts are experiencing a renaissance these days. Knitting, weaving and quilting are among the increasingly popular pastimes that are infecting both women and men with the creative bug. People everywhere are picking up needles, looms and sewing machines and producing incredible works of art. And they are not just armchair crafters, picking away at personal projects in front of the TV during the evenings. Not at all. Serious crafters are gathering together and forming groups that are both social and supportive.

For many years in Houston there has been a spinners and weavers group and a quilting group. More recently a knitting group has formed.

The quilters who are officially known as The Cut Loose Quilters meet biweekly in the Canfor Room at HPL to hone and share their skills. Yarn It All, the knitters, also meet bi-weekly in the Canfor Room to do the same. We aren’t sure where the spinners and weavers are gathering, but I’m fairly sure that they are gathering somewhere!

The resurgence of these crafts in recent years is interesting to say the least. The artisans that create such beautiful and practical items do so with passion and pride. Not a single item seems to be less than a labour of love.

Last week, one of the members of The Cut Loose Quilters entered the library and unfurled an example of this labour; a gorgeous quilt, which was donated to HPL for the purpose of fundraising through raffle ticket sales. The tickets will be on sale between March 24th and May 24th after which a draw will be held to determine the winner. (See picture above)

This beautiful quilt is not just a pieced-together blanket. It is a community project that started with a simple idea and will culminate in a lasting legacy for the entire community. The purchase of the material to make the quilt was sponsored by the Bulkley Valley Credit Union. The quilt itself was created by the members of the Cut Loose Quilters (quilt mom: Ene Groot; quilting done by Pam Sjoden). It was then donated to HPL. The raffle will raise money that will be used to purchase new chairs for the Canfor Room. And some lucky winner will have it to treasure for – hopefully – many, many years to come. It could even become an heirloom!

The number of people that have, are and will be touched by the quilt is extraordinary. This humble little blanket is wrapped around many shoulders. It is a symbol of how our community works together, helps each other out and rallies to support good causes.

Tickets will be on sale at the Bulkley Valley Credit Union, the Houston and District Chamber of Commerce and, of course, at the library.
(BC Gaming License #32292)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mr. Brewstir Retires After Serious Arm Injury

For over a decade Mr. Brewstir watched over the HPL collection, ever vigilant under the weight of his personal stack of tomes. His loyalty and dedication to the library, the staff and patrons as he silently stood guard will be sadly missed as he now retires from service.

Mr. Brewstir came to Houston from the land of Costco in 1997. His first appointment was at Brewstir’s Books on the corner of 10th Street and Poulton Avenue; a job he fondly recalls as being “pleasantly aromatic.” “The smell of fresh coffee mixed with clean books... Ah! A most pleasurable place to earn a living,” Brewstir reminisced just prior to the surgery he recently underwent to mend a severely fractured right arm.

His move to the library was precipitated by the closure of Brewstir’s books in 1999. Though he nearly retired at that time, Mr. Brewstir decided to continue is career when a position suddenly opened up at the library. “I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be surrounded by all those beautiful books,” Brewstir said.

Brewstir’s peaceful work life came to a shattering end this past February when an errant and unsupervised toddler wilfully knocked him over. In the fall, Brewstir’s right arm sustained multiple fractures and his beloved stack of books was forcefully ripped away from his body. Staff members were horrified, but quickly assisted the fallen bibliophile back onto his unscathed plinth. The noble little man didn’t so much as groan, though the pain must have been terrible.

Arrangements were made to transfer the wounded Brewstir to a nearby hospital – of sorts – where he was lovingly tended to by Dr. D and his assistant T. The surgery to repair his damaged arm took just over two hours, followed by another 24 hours in traction to be sure the breaks would mend properly. It is expected that Brewstir’s stack of books will be returned to him tonight or tomorrow and that he will be able to continue to hold them for many years to come. Some follow-up, cosmetic surgery to hide the scarring is scheduled for the coming weekend.

Mr. Brewstir misses the library very much. “But it is nice not to have to spend nights and weekends all alone,” Brewstir said. “I think I shall find retirement quite enjoyable.”

"He was quite a character," said librarian Toni McKilligan. "He'll be missed around here."

At Mr. Brewstir’s request no retirement party will be held in his honour. He simply asks that everyone continue to visit the Houston Public Library and enjoy “the great books, awesome programs and convenient services thereof!”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Off to a Great Start

As the Houston Public Library Association moves into its 46th year of incorporation, we are pleased to welcome three new Trustees to our board. At the Annual General Meeting held in the Canfor Room last night (Feb 22) Natasha Tenbrinke, Lisa Makuk and Joe Aersens all accepted nominations and were elected by acclimation for two-year terms. We also welcomed back Rob Newell and Kim Marks for two-year terms. These five volunteers round out a complete board of nine Library Trustees. Until last night, we had been short two board members for some time.

At the same time the three new board members joined our team two others took their leave as Trustees. Having completed the maximum eight consecutive years permissible under the Library Act, Helen Ludditt and Margaret Monkman passed the torch – so to speak – and retired from the board. It is with great sadness that we see these two amazing women step down. HPL wishes them both the very best, but we know that we will still see them at the circulation desk and at fundraising events where they will continue to volunteer on behalf of HPL as members of the Friends of the Library.
With that, we move forward into a fresh new year full of possibilities – both good and bad. Funding issues still hover, like the grim reaper, himself, in board rooms and budget meetings all over the province. At HPL we remain optimistic, but the reality is that the province and the District of Houston hold the purse strings and can draw them tighter at any moment. On the sunnier side of things, we have already secured funding for one project: new tables and chairs for the Canfor Room. Approval for a grant from the Bulkely Valley Community Foundation along with a donation from the Friends of the Library will enable us to purchase comfortable folding chairs and sleek new folding tables. Meetings will never be the same again!

Our brand new popcorn popper is on its way to us, too. Thanks to a generous donation from Bev Lyons of PV Restaurant, our movie nights and matinees will be more theatre-like experiences for our patrons. And we won’t have to schlep the popcorn popper back and forth from the Credit Union any more! (Though we are very grateful to the Credit Union for allowing us to use theirs and for supplying the popcorn free of charge!)

So far, so good! New Trustees, new popcorn popper, new tables and chairs... 2010 is off to a great start.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's No Turkey Dinner...

I know it’s not spring – Yet! But it’s coming fast and with it all sorts of stressful demands that libraries face on an annual basis at that time of the year. AGMs, SOFIs, PLSB surveys, summer student applications and the summer students that follow them... By the time summer hits, Librarians are hoping for a breather, only to discover that it’s time to start thinking about budgets and grant reports and fall programming and .... Well, suffice it to say, it’s always something.

At HPL the something we are focussing on is the AGM, scheduled for February 22nd. AGMs are a lot like Christmas dinner; hours of preparation and it’s all over with in about 30 minutes. Then there’s the clean up! More reports to submit and new board members to train before we can settle into a routine. (Not to mention dive into the next something!)

With only ten days before the AGM, I am pretty much ready to go. All that’s left is to arrange for the goodies that we traditionally serve, tweak the agenda and print the Annual Report. It’s always good to be ahead of the game, but that often just means more time to worry about the details – like do I have the right dates on the reports. Last year I didn’t!

The AGM is a requirement for all public libraries. It is supposed to be the time when we tell the supporting public what we’ve done with all those tax dollars that have been channelled our way over the previous year. Unlike some governments (how’s that for diplomacy?), we are held accountable and have to justify our spending. It’s part of the game, one of the hoops we must jump through – there are many others!

I’m happy to report that in 2009, our fiscal responsibilities were handled quite well. We achieved a great deal with what we had and ended with a bit left over. Little by little my vision for HPL is evolving into reality and over the next few years, I believe that we will continue to do well. As long as our funding remains stable and no unforeseen disasters strike! But that is also part of the game; the unknown future on which we all bank to provide us with a good and prosperous return.

So, the date to remember is Monday, February 22nd. The time to remember is 7 p.m. The place to go is the Houston Public Library. The event is the Annual General Meeting. And while it’s no turkey dinner with all the trimmings, it is for a very good cause.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hit the Ground Running

In my January report to the Board of Trustees I stated that we “hit the ground running in 2010.” Indeed, we’ve reached the end of the month in record time and, it seems, at warp speed! Before we know it, we’ll be preparing for year-end!

It’s scary how fast time passes, but like the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun,” we are having tons of fun at HPL. (I know this because balloons are hanging from the ceiling!)

Our Calendar of Events is chock full of great activities for all ages. Our children’s programs are in full swing, but there’s always room for more. Yarn It All (our version of the proverbial “stitch and b***h”) welcomes all who are interested in fibre arts to come and share their talents – or develop them. If you don’t know how to do it, we’ll teach you! (Or find someone who will!) Community Conversations is an interesting and fun way to learn about local and global issues that affect us all right here in good ol’ Houston. Book Club challenges readers to go beyond the norm and discover new authors and genres. NID Matinees provide youngsters a theatre-like experience - except the popcorn is free and the seats are big, comfy pillows on the floor.

See – tons of fun!

Our Calendar of Events is posted on our web site: . The February calendar will appear any time now - just as soon as the web site fairies arrive to upload the file for me or the time fairies add a couple hours to my day!

One event that I would like to draw particular attention to is the Norman Leach Lecture Tour, which will be stopping at HPL on Friday, February 12, 2010 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Norman Leach is a renowned Canadian historian and award-winning author of the book Broken Arrow: America’s First Lost Nuclear Weapon, which tells the tale of the US B36 bomber that crashed in the Kispiox carrying a nuclear warhead.

When the wreck was discovered years later, more questions than answers emerged? What actually happened? How did the plane end up in Northern BC? What happened to the weapon it was carrying? Intrigued? Then please join us in the Canfor Room when we welcome Mr. Leach – who just may have some of the answers!