“Libraries are one of the last places that you can spend hours and hours in and not be expected to buy anything.” —Stefany Royles, Library Technician
In Newfoundland and Labrador we are fortunate to have a provincial library system, with professional, cheerful staff ready to guide your reading, learning and doing journey! CUPE Local 2329 represents approximately 300 library workers at 94 public libraries, from St. John’s to Labrador City.
Our members are library assistants, library technicians, IT specialists and clerical staff.
We interviewed three of them to find out what their days are like and what they love best about working in a library.
Stacey Lucas, Julia Mayo and Stefany Royles are Library Technicians at A.C. Hunter Public Library in St. John’s.
Library Technician Stacey Lucas says the library is an amazing public service.
“Why spend $40 on a hard cover book when you can get it at the library for free!” she asks. “We offer much more than just books — there is so much programming, from book clubs and knitting groups to trivia nights and money management workshops. And all at no cost.”
Stacey has spent the past 14 years working at the circulation desk at the A.C. Hunter Public Library in St. John’s.
She has a certificate in Library Studies from Memorial University, where she was studying for an Arts degree when she heard about the library program.
“I have always been an avid reader,” she says. “So when I heard about this program, I knew where my path in life lay.”
One of her favourite programs is the Home Reader Service, for patrons who can’t get to the library — people with disabilities or seniors in care homes, for instance. Stacey is one of two library technicians that service the St. John’s area, delivering materials such as books, large print books, audio books and DVDs to people in private homes or in care homes.
“There’s a big demand for this service in St. John’s,” she says, with about a hundred people using the service on a regular basis. The program has recently been extended to new parents too, who might be unable to get out of the house with the demands of a new baby. And if you live in Cornerbrook or Gander, the Home Reader Service is offered there as well.
As Acting President of Local 2329, Stacey knows how lucky she is to have a job that she loves to go to everyday. But she is also aware that libraries aren’t top of mind when it comes to government spending. She says what would make her job better is more funding for libraries—for materials and the buildings that house them.
BEST PART OF HER JOB: Interacting with patrons and helping them choose books to read or movies to watch. “The best thing is getting to meet the patrons and sometimes making new friends.”
“The library is free and fun and full of amazing people who know amazing things,” says Julia Mayo, Adult Program Co-ordinator at the A.C. Hunter Library in St. John’s. “And where else can you go and not be expected to buy something?”
She is thrilled that public libraries have become more program oriented, geared towards bringing people together.
“Programs bring in outside entities to educate and entertain,” she says, “and as much as possible, we try to make sure that they are free.” She says the library has formed partnerships with many outside sources in order to bring programming to their adult patrons.
A favourite partnership is with the St. John’s Storytelling Festival. Last month they hosted a storytelling circle at the library, called “Tea and Tales.”
Another series, “Let’s Try”, gives people an opportunity to try out a new activity, such as Bollywood dancing. “Well Now” brings in different specialists to talk about health and wellness. There are programs on financial and digital literacy, programs for seniors and star gazers and geocachers. Julia says they try to choose programs that are pertinent and current.
But because they library is underfunded, she says they rely mostly on free offerings. “Thankfully, a lot of cool people provide their talent for free!” she says. “I’m so lucky to get to work with amazing, passionate professionals. My job is awesome!”
She says if there were unlimited resources she would wish for a new building to house the library. “It’s the same age as me,” she laments.
BEST PART OF HER JOB: “I love meeting new people and helping them find the information they need.”
“I always knew I was going to work in a library or a museum,” says Stefany Royles. “Being in the community is where I feel at home. Working for the public library you are definitely in the community!”
Stefany says she was inspired to become a library technician by her aunt, who was also a librarian. She’s part of the outreach team at the A.C. Hunter Library, where she’s involved in some unique initiatives.
Like the Library on the Go van, which she affectionately calls “Not just your nan’s bookmobile.” The van delivers materials to neighbourhoods that might not be able to access the main libraries, like communities on the outskirts of the city.
“People can access more than just books,” she says “DVDs, board games, bird watching backpacks, book club kits and musical instruments are also available to borrow.” This partnership with the City of St. John’s was launched a little over a year ago and has been a great success, she says.
The Library on the Go also tags along with Food First NL’s Food on the Move program — a mobile, pop-up grocery store that delivers fresh produce and other goods to six community centres, including a stop at Memorial University. “Patrons can purchase high quality food at amazing prices, such as three bundles of produce for $5,” she says. “Plus they can access library books and services at the same time.”
NLPL Connect Pass is a brand new program that allows persons with a library card to access free admission to arts and culture venues across the province. Stefany says the NL Provincial Library is the first in Canada to implement this new software. She says there are 57 partners across NL that are offering free passes, from provincial parks and museums to festivals and even ski and hockey clubs.
“We’re a library of learning and doing,” she says. “This is about removing barriers and allowing people to learn about the culture and history of our province.”
In the first month of the program Stefany says they issued 1400 new library cards, as members of the public wanted in on this exciting offer.
Another part of Stefany’s job is managing the non-fiction books that come in by donation. If they aren’t needed at the library, they are offered for sale through the Friends of Library, which holds book sales twice a year. She says the “weeding” process they go through for taking books out of the system is a very thought out process that involves looking at a number of factors, including the overall condition of the book and whether or not the information is still relevant.
“We constantly have to curate our collection so that the information is correct, unbiased and uncensored,” she explains, “ and so that we have enough room for the new items continually coming in, because we are finite!”
Stefany says having a bigger library budget would make her job better, and also the province as a whole. “There have been no library budget increases in almost 15 years,” she says.
BEST PART OF HER JOB: The camaraderie with her work mates, and the outreach. “It’s very satisfying.”
October is Library Month—make sure to visit a library and while you’re there, don’t forget to thank a library worker!