We asked Shannon Hansen, a community library assistant at Halifax North Memorial Public Library, to pick one moment that describes the spirit of Halifax Public Libraries and why it's the best. "You're saying pick one moment," he says, "but I have those kind of moments every day."
Hansen has spent the last eight months—along with the entire HPL team—pushing the limits of what a library can do and mean for a community, efforts our readers appreciated. For months he was driving around in his truck delivering food bundles to families, talking to parents and keeping in touch with the teens he used to hang out with daily.
He was fielding an endless flood of the same question: "When will the library be open again?" And with no answer to give, he says he could "see in their face, kind of the whole slump of their aura" from missing the connection that came from generations of families spending time in that library.
When curbside pickup started and his food bundle runs now came with a bit of good news, it was hugs and smiles, each person's reaction helping him understand "what this place means to other people, how important it is and how valuable it is."
Then his deliveries finally brought the news that the library was reopening for real. The celebrations got real then, too. It's one thing, says Hansen, for parents to be asking about the library and checking out books, but another thing entirely when teens, lost in this big confusing world with lockdowns and TikTok, can't wait for the library to open again. "It's just amazing to see how important this place was," Hansen marvels again, "and what it meant to everybody."
The library's mission is serving community, and serving community is all that it does. And it does so by simply paying attention to those it serves. So when the time came to transition to pandemic precaution operations, it was kind of easy, says Hansen.
Kids all of a sudden needed to do schoolwork from home? The library sent Chromebooks out to families who needed them (some delivered by Hansen himself). Families didn't have reliable-enough wifi for online assignments? The library boosted its wifi signal to reach further outside the perimeter of the buildings. Closed buildings meant public washroom access was taken away—the library set up portable washrooms downtown. Kids were going stir crazy at home? The library handed out age-appropriate activity packs stuffed with snacks and games.
Online collections expanded, fines were removed, and English as an Additional Language tutoring sessions seamlessly became virtual. It was an endless flow of new ideas and initiatives, of moments that let us know the library certainly was loving us back.
As Hansen says, Best-of-Halifax moments that happened every single day.