Community Connectors

Hannah Colville is not a typical librarian. But most librarians typically aren’t what people expect.
“Someone said to me the other day, ‘I didn’t know you guys went outside!’” she says. “It made me laugh…it’s the sort of line I hear all the time. We’re outdoor cats, too.”
Colville is the manager of the Bedford branch of the Halifax Public Library. She’s been in that role for three years, after starting out as a clerk and youth librarian at the Bedford and North End Halifax branches.
Some of her work, including cataloguing books and managing the branch’s resources,does happen inside. But Colville says she spends most of her time out in the community, meeting with local organizations, accessing funding, and helping them with their needs. The people, she says, are the best part of her job.
“We’re very social creatures,” she explains. “That may surprise a lot of people. I really like that I am not sitting at a desk eight hours a day. It’s never boring.”
This branch opened in 1990 after moving from in Sunnyside Mall. It’s one of the smallest branches in the network, about the same size of some of the more rural branches such as Musquodoboit Harbour’s. But it’s comfortable, like a big living room. There are sections for everyone, including toddlers, plus several computers. A few smaller rooms serve as meeting spaces for community groups.
“We are kind of bursting at the seams here,” Colville says. “We have to turn away community groups. We know we need a new space.”
Now that the new Central branch on Spring Garden is open and a huge success, Colville says Bedford is “next on the list” for a new space.
But despite its size, the branch still packs a punch. The credit, she says, goes to her staff. With five full-time staff, several part timers, and a cohort of volunteers, it’s what she calls the “people power” here that keep the customers coming back.
“My staff are wonderful,” Colville says. “I hear that every day. They are friendly, warm, people who love their work. They really do go above and beyond.”
Jane Giles has worked at the branch for almost 20 years. She started out performing puppet shows and now serves as a full-time lead hand, directing the circulation desk. Like Colville, her favourite part of the job is working with the public.
“It’s interesting every day,” she says. “You meet people from all walks of life, from little babies to seniors.”
Giles says Colville is a great leader and makes it her job to connect the library to the people it serves. “She really wants to go out into the community and bring the library to the community, not just have them come into the library itself,” Giles says.
And to anyone who’s not yet been to the branch, Colville sends an invitation. There are resources for everyone.
“We are important community connectors, but more importantly we provide a space where everyone can come,” Colville says. “It’s not just books. We know your name. If we don’t, we will get to know your name.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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