Consider it one of the rare bright spots in the wall-to-wall bleakness of 2021: Last year, the township of Preston opened its library office. A part of the Halifax Public Libraries network, the office serves as a vital community hub, offering events, literacy initiatives, and digital access programs. Located at 1900 Trunk 7, East Preston, the library office "was basically established because we recognized that there were challenges and barriers to reaching this community, the Preston township specifically," says Chanae Parsons, programming and community engagement manager of Halifax Public Libraries's eastern district. "And we just wanted to be more intentional and reaching those folks."
What makes a library office different from a regular library? The office acts as a home base for staff who are going into the community and meeting people where they are. "You can access the same types of services that you would at any branch, such as lendable technology, getting a library card, picking up a hold, browsing small collection—but it's just the size. We don't have a programming room. But we do have a place where community can come gather," explains Parsons.
"This concept existed well before I came to Halifax Public Libraries," Parsons adds. "It was really through the advocacy and the programming efforts of Renise Cain: So, Renise Cain is our first community specialist, that was tasked to support the Preston township because the library system recognized a gap in reaching this community, where they're in between two of our branches." (That'd be the Cole Harbour and Musquodoboit Harbour branches.)
Parsons says that thanks to Cain and the co-workers she shares the Preston office with daily, the mission of closing community gaps feels all the more possible: "This isn't our end goal. This is just the beginning. We want to continue offering optimal programming for this community—and also leading with them at the forefront. So, what their needs are; what their wants are. But also actively listening in terms of 'What didn't we get right?' Or 'What do we need to consider adapting?'," she says. "We want folks to feel like this is a community hub. This is a welcoming space for all. And we want to show that we really reflect the community. The Preston township is one of the oldest—if not the oldest—African Nova Scotian historical Black community. And we really wanted to create a space that reflects them specifically, their unique culture, as well as the people that reside within this community."