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‘Small but mighty’ Bay Roberts library garners special award

Judges with the TD Summer Reading Club Library Award were so impressed with the reading club put off by staff at the Bay Roberts public library that they created a special award category just to recognise the excellent work done by staff. From left are Eastern Division Manager Sarah Bartlett and Bay Roberts librarians Marilyn Clarke and Laura Saunders. Mark Squibb photo

By Mark Squibb

Staff at the Bay Roberts library so bedazzled the TD Summer Reading Club Library Award panel that judges created a special category just to recognise the library’s excellent summer reading program.

“This year, the members of the jury were so impressed with what a very small library did with two part-time staff and zero budget that they wanted to reward them for offering such an incredible TD Summer Reading Club program,” read the official judges decision. “After much deliberation, the Small but Mighty Award was created. This award will only be given out in exceptional circumstances to very deserving libraries.”

Those two part-time staffers are Laura Saunders and Marilyn Clarke, who between the two of them put together a summer reading program that would be the envy of bigger, fancier libraries.

“It was a big surprise, because about two weeks before, notice had gone out that all winners had been notified, and of course we hadn’t gotten a notification or anything,” said Saunders. “And then all of a sudden, we got an e-mail saying they had created an award category for our program because they were so impressed with our program.”

Last summer, the library saw over ten times the number of reading club participants over the previous four years combined. Circulation of children’s material increased 20 precent from the same time period in 2019. Over 120 children registered for the program — numbers comparable to those of libraries situated in towns with double the population and double the library staff.

The reading club launched on June 27 and concluded on September 2. Each week, staff prepared new activities and crafts for young people to enjoy. Staff also hosted special story times with local authors and community groups, fun group activities, a scavenger hunt, and story walk, amongst other fun pastimes.

To keep kids reading throughout the summer, staff even planted water-proof book caches around town, so that reading material was always close at hand.

The library also partnered with the Town of Bay Roberts to put off Toutons, Tunes, and a Tale, a spin on the town’s summer Toutons and Tunes program. Youths met at the Tourist Chalet to enjoy reading, music, and food, as well as the company of Logan the Newfoundland Dog. The library hosted two such events throughout the summer.

Staff also encouraged parents to “catch” their kids reading around town, at home, on the beach, or on the trail, and share the photos online.

Children who registered for the program were given a facsimile of an ice cream cone to take home with them, and for each book they checked out and returned, they were given a “scoop of ice cream” to add to their cone. Each scoop, over 150 all told, counted as a submission in a special ice cream gift card draw.

Staff also employed Miles the Bookworm, who lived on the library wall, to gauge the number of books being read by participants. Once a child finished a book, he or she decorated a circle that was added to Miles. With each addition, Miles grew and grew, reaching a length of 251.25 feet, representing 804 books.

“These programs keep kids reading throughout the summer,” said Saunders. “These programs help increase literacy rates and helps keep kids from losing their skills over the summer.”

Besides the summer reading program, the Bay Roberts library hosts a Lego group every second Thursday and a grandparent and grandchild group every other Thursday.

Backyard gardeners may be interested to learn they can pick up free seed packets at the library, while folks who’ve completed all the puzzles they have at home can bring those puzzles in and exchange them for new ones.

Eastern Division Manager Sarah Bartlett said that with rising costs of living, the demand for services has also increased — circulation of library materials alone increased 64 precent over the last year.

Bartlett said libraires are about serving the community, not just moving books.

“One of the things we offer is a space to come that’s free of charge,” said Bartlett. “There are so few places that you can be in public that don’t cost you money.”

The recognition comes with $1,000 in prize money for staff to invest in the children’s section of the library. Staff will use the money to buy new lighting and sensory toys.

Library patrons with long memories may remember that in 2016 the Carbonear Public Library was named a third-place recipient in the TD Summer Reading Club Library Award for its summer reading program. That library received $1,000 in award money as well.

Meanwhile, the Gananoque Public Library of Ontario and the Bibliothèque de Brossard Georgette-Lepage of Quebec took home the first prize in English and French categories respectively.

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