By Cal Braid
Sunny South News
The Coaldale Public Library recently released a newsletter that detailed the numbers from their 2019-2022 Plan of Service. Head librarian, Dothlyn McFarlane, has been in her position since 2017 and discussed some of the programs and improvements that were realized as a result of the plan. Despite COVID lockdowns and restrictions, the library still found a way to deliver on the plan that was drafted before the pandemic occurred.
“In 2020, we figured out a way to reinvent ourselves and provide programs and services following the COVID restrictions,” McFarlane said. “There were times when the library was closed, but we started offering curbside pickup and then we started home deliveries as well (during) the early part when everybody had to be at home.”
The library kept six people on staff despite the disruption. “The board made a decision not to cut staff and we did a fantastic job without cutting staff or reducing staff hours. I think everybody knew how important it was to keep doing our job and be relevant. We created kits for people to take home and then we did some programming online as well.”
She said the plan of service is a requirement from the Alberta Government Library Service Branch and that they need to submit one every three years. Though each municipal library is independent of the Chinook Arch Regional Library System, the system helps libraries with the consolidation of resources, obtaining bargains for book purchases, cataloguing, and IT support.
During the pandemic, they were able to focus on adding to their website. They added a community organizations page, which she described as a “one-stop” to connect people with services in Coaldale.
Another project was to provide a quiet learning space. They built an alcove with sliding glass doors near the teens and games area, a potential source of the noise. The library’s motto of being ‘the living room of the community’ sets it up to be a place where people can do different things, but the alcove still shows respect for the traditional part where people want a quiet place to read or study. The funding came from the Town of Coaldale and the library board. McFarlane said the renovation cost was about $10,000, and the furniture another five or six hundred. The alcove is new, completed this year.
The library implemented 36 physical literacy programs as well, which just means getting active “in library terms,” she joked. The programming included straight physical activity and times of simply getting up and moving around during stationary programs.
They also planned for the implementation of four STEM programs and overachieved on their goal. They delivered 53 STEM programs, which represent science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. McFarlane said that when developing a plan of service, their philosophy is to “aim realistically and then expand as far as you can go. We have set programs already, so the goal is to figure out how we can incorporate different things into it.”
Additionally, the library ran programs for seniors to introduce them to technology. In collaboration with the County of Lethbridge Community Learning Council, which is housed in the library building, they ran programs like basic digital literacy.
“Chinook Arch had a grant from the federal government to have someone that went around to the member libraries and offer courses in technology,” she explained. In accomplishing their plan, they considered “how can we partner with other organizations to make it happen, so some of it did go with some amount of partnership.” The senior’s programs were hampered by restrictions, so the library used an online format and provided kits that people could take home.
With their summer reading programs finished for the year, McFarlane and her staff continue to create activities and programs that enrich their community. Next up is developing a new plan of service for the three years ahead.
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