Libraries in small towns, by necessity, must be all things to all people. As one of the few local gathering spaces common to most rural communities, they are more than just a place to check out books: libraries are at the core of small-town life. The Carmangay & District Municipal Library is no exception. To hear library manager Kelsey Chic tell it, the library is Carmangay’s hub, where many residents go for entertainment, information, and even communication. “We’re basically the community centre. We host programming for all ages. We’re the only place in town that sells coffee—people will come in, buy a coffee, and sit and chat,” says Chic.
As time does to most things well-loved, the library had begun to show its age. Something ugly was underfoot—literally. The carpet was in dire need of replacing. “I don’t know how long it was there. It was ripped, it was torn, parts were duct taped down. It was brutal,” describes Chic. The library successfully applied for $5,000 from the Community Foundation’s Community Priorities Fund to install something a bit more durable, and when the grant was awarded, renovating the library became a community endeavour. Donations came in from local businesses and other organizations. “We also had volunteers come in to help us move all the books,” says Chic. It took volunteers a week to remove the books from the library—and they kept them in the correct order, too.
Chic recounts a number of unintended bonuses library staff and patrons have been discovering since the new tile flooring was installed. For instance, the new flooring has reduced barriers to accessibility for some of the library’s older visitors. “In Carmangay, we do have a large senior population,” Chic explains. “A lot of them aren’t as sure on their feet as they used to be, so when they’d come in, they were worried about tripping or falling.” But that worry disappeared with the old carpet, along with much of the work required to keep things clean. During the kids’ program one Friday morning after the new floor was installed, one young patron began exploring the floor’s suitability as a new canvas. “I look over to see a little girl drawing on the tiles with—washable, thank god—markers.” Chic tried to persuade her to use a sheet of paper, but to no avail. “No harm done, as the markers wash away easily,” she assures. “I couldn’t help but laugh—no way this little Picasso could have done that on the old carpet.”
As is the case with the Carmangay Library’s Community Priorities Grant project, sometimes the smallest projects have the biggest impact. Considering how many hats the library wears, it’s no surprise that the reflooring became a community endeavour. Through the granting process, the many volunteer hours, and generous local donations, residents of the village were able to come together and put in the work. Now, they get to share in the reward. “When the library gets improved,” says Chic, “the community gets improved.”
PHOTO: A view down one of the aisles at the Carmangay & District Municipal Library shows off the new flooring. Submitted by Kelsey Chic.