Posted by: libraryexplorer | November 8, 2010

Elgin County Public Library – Aylmer

The Aylmer library building is made of yellow brick, has 2.5 storeys, and faces the main street.

Aylmer Library -photo from elgincounty.ca

The Aylmer Old Town Hall branch of the Elgin County Public Library is beautiful. I visited last week Friday when the sun was mostly hidden behind clouds, but the large windows let in copious amounts of daylight.

The branch has the highest circulation rate in all of Elgin County PL. Yet the branch is too small for the programs and materials they provide. I was able to watch and talk with the staff who work at the Aylmer branch. They greeted familiar patrons by name, gave me a tour of the space, and worked cheerfully in their tiny space.

Aside from the windows, my favourite aspect of the branch was an oval rug in the children’s section. The border of the brilliant blue rug shows 26 books, each with a letter of the alphabet. It accents the books sitting on the shelves, cover facing out.

Click here to view the branch hours for the Aylmer Old City Hall branch.The upstairs houses a community theatre.

Posted by: libraryexplorer | September 22, 2010

Kingston Frontenac Public Library

I spent the past four months working as a co-op librarian at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL). I got to work with the Children’s and Teens Services staff. It was a great experience, and I loved every minute in the library.

I had the pleasure of working at both the Central library and the Isabel Turner branch. Each location has unique beauty and enticing attributes. Both locations have a large number of resources, both digital and print. They also both have about equal patronage numbers.

Central

The central branch houses its children’s and teens collections on the second floor. There are lower bookshelves for children to reach. Tables have small chairs around them, and there are toys, games and stuffed animals available for children and adults to play with together. The space is carpeted, a bonus for children who crawl on the floor. The ceilings are about 8 feet, giving the space a cozy feeling. The windows along two long walls allow natural light to mix with the compact fluorescent lights. The first time I walked up the stairs to the second floor I was struck with the sheer number of books on the many shelves. It was a welcome sight for me, a life-long lover of reading.

Isabel Turner branch

Built in the last 1990s, the Isabel Turner branch looks like it was recently constructed. With a few skylights and walls that are almost completely glass windows, the entire library practically glows on a sunny day. The children’s section is separate from the rest of the library, but because the entire branch has an open concept, the children are within sight of the librarians at the circulation desk. Teenagers have their own shelves of books and computers on the lower level. The computers have room around each one for three or more teenagers to work together and see the monitor. Teenagers naturally socialize in groups and the internet is one way that teenagers share the library together.

The librarians and staff at KFPL have a great things going. I contributed to an emergent literacy project that the children’s librarians will implement this fall. I’ll speak more on that another day.

Posted by: libraryexplorer | May 31, 2010

A Touch of Frost

A Touch of Frost is a British TV show that stars the detective Jack Frost. KFPL has all 14 seasons available, as well as the novels on which the show is based. Click on the photo to hear Jeannette talk about the series.

This blog post is a video I helped Jeannette create. The purpose of this video was to get practice with creating and uploading videos to blogs. I definitely got practice today. Yay for Web 2.0 technologies!

Posted by: libraryexplorer | May 11, 2010

Bewdley Public Library (Cobourg, ON)

Well, now that my semester is finished, I can write about whatever library branches I want. So, I’ll start close to where I grew up: Bewdley, ON.

Bewdley is a tiny town along the shores of Rice Lake, about 15 kilometres north of Cobourg in Northumberland County. The library is a branch of the Cobourg Public Library “system” and is housed in a small room near the local corner store. It has few items and is open only 6 hours each week. They recently moved to a new spot in the Bewdley Arena, but I have not visited since the move.

That’s all there is to say about Bewdley’s library.

Posted by: libraryexplorer | February 10, 2010

The East London branch library and the community it serves

East London Neighbourhood

Every community changes over time. Some differ greatly from one decade to the next while others change almost imperceptibly. The community surrounding the East London branch of the London Public Library falls somewhere between these two extremes. The most recent censuses conducted by Statistics Canada were in 2006 and 2001. The size of the population remained almost the same from the beginning of the decade to the middle of the decade, with even a slight decrease.

The census tract where the East London branch sits is a large, 28.3 km2 parcel of land that encompasses the London International Airport, the Argyle mall, plenty of industrial land, commercial land, and a small amount of residential land. Therefore, I also looked at the census tract information for the neighbourhood directly across the street (south) from the East London branch, and the tract just south of that. Both of the additional tracts encompass residential land, several schools, and a cemetery. When I discuss the neighbourhood of East London, I will refer to the neighbourhoods just south of the library building itself, making an assumption that the few streets north of the branch share a similar profile. I did not examine the statistics for all the other nearby neighbourhoods that the East London branch serves. The intent of this discussion is to provide a small snapshot of one area the library serves, not the entire community. The census tract information for the branch’s address is so anomalous it is mostly worthless for describing the community of East London. However, it is good to note that there is a large amount of commercial and industrial land near the library.

Six Ways to Describe East London

The Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) developed “6 Ways to Describe Your Community” for public libraries to initiate discussion about the characteristics, needs and assets in the communities they serve. The six categories are 1) social and economic factors, 2) lifestyles and interests, 3) groups and affiliations, 4) agencies and services, 5) changes occurring, and 6) community assets. I will use the “Six Ways to Describe Your Community” document as a framework for discussing the community immediately surrounding the East London branch. All six categories can foster incredible amounts of discussion, but I will briefly highlight only a bit about each aspect of east London’s community because of my inability to conduct official research of the neighbourhood.

Social & Economic Factors

The immediate neighbourhood that is walking distance to the East London branch can be described by social and economic factors. A few of these factors are employment statistics, economic well-being, demographics, education, and community identity.

Half of the nearby area has a below-average unemployment rate (4.5%) while the other half has an above-average unemployment rate (6.9%) when compared to London’s overall unemployment rate (6.1%) and Ontario’s unemployment rate (6.4%). The median household income numbers in both census tracts south of the library branch are $54,770 and $56,890. These numbers are approximately $13,000 and $14,000 lower than the median household income for London and Ontario respectively. Unfortunately statistics only describe what occurs, and not the why.

The Argyle Mall and several “big-box” stores are located in the immediate vicinity. They provide jobs, entertainment, and shopping. The industrial area hosts numerous factories that also provide employment. Four bus lines take East London residents downtown in about 15-20 minutes, the same amount of time it takes to drive downtown.

Demographically speaking, East London has a small percentage of recent immigrants (~5% of the population has arrived in Canada since 1991) and self-identified visible minorities (~10%). Despite this, I noticed there are several non-English magazines and newspapers and newsletters available at the library. When examining the population by age group, the largest groups are adults aged 35-55 (32%) and young people aged 5-20 (24%) years old. The census areas near the branch library encompass a public high school, a Catholic elementary school, two public elementary schools, and a Christian elementary school. Many of the students walk to their respective schools. There is a senior citizen apartment building about half a kilometre away, but that did not greatly increase the population of elderly people in the census tract.

Community identity can be fostered through media and public spaces. The community around East London can congregate at the aforementioned schools, the library, the skating arena, or one of three churches. There is no radio or TV station broadcasting from this neighbourhood, but as a part of the city of London, this area receives a large number of stations from south western Ontario and beyond.

Lifestyles & Interests

It is difficult for me to determine the hobbies and past times shared by the members of this community without asking or surveying a large number of residents. However, after spending some time at the library branch, at the Argyle mall, and the neighbourhood nearby, I discovered a few things. First, there are a large number of high school students who spend time at the Argyle mall during and after school hours. Second, the hockey arena is busy most school afternoons and evenings as well as every weekend. Third, Argyle mall’s grocery store serves large numbers of shoppers all week long. Fourth, most mature adults drive cars while the majority of pedestrian traffic is young people and young adults (twenty-something years old). Fifth, most residents keep their homes looking nice, even though a large majority of homes are more than 24 years old (Statistics Canada, 2006).

Groups & Affiliations

From the information I can find, there are a good number of community events and social groups meeting in this East London neighbourhood. The public library displays a large bulletin board full of notices and posters for local events. Three churches meet regularly for worship services and social events: a Catholic church, a Pentecostal church, and a Baptist church. It would be foolish of me to say that this is everything that happens in the neighbourhood. If I had a chance to look closer and ask people questions I suspect there would be stories of neighbours helping each other out, and street garage sales and barbecues.

Agencies & Services

The immediate vicinity around the library hosts a variety of services to the community. The library shares a building with a YMCA daycare. Several hundred feet west from the library is an emergency care facility. The same distance away to the south of the branch library is a senior citizens apartment complex. Scattered around the neighbourhood are affordable housing units and co-operative housing. A shelter for abused women is just around the corner from the library. Just outside of the library’s immediate neighbourhood sits a walk-in clinic. Although there are two dentist offices nearby, there are no doctor offices.  The services and agencies surrounding the library work well, but do not cover all the community’s needs. Fortunately, there are services a little further away from the census tracts I studied.

Changes Occurring

This neighbourhood is well established. According to Statistics Canada census information the population decreased from 2001 to 2006. Most of the stores and gas stations have been there for more than five years. The only new ones are Home Depot, Staples Business Depot, and Bulk Barn. One gas station went out of business several years ago and the land is still vacant. There is no room for new housing developments, and new businesses usually replace older businesses. There is no need for new schools, and the current schools have a good level of enrolment because families with children is the main demographic that lives here. The public transportation is regular and far-reaching across the city, allowing East London residents to travel across the city even when they do not own their own vehicle. Overall the neighbourhood around the East London branch library is alive and active.

Community Assets

A proper assessment of this community’s needs would involve many resources. I cannot say with any detail the assets within the East London neighbourhood, but I can make some general observations.

One major asset is the amount of open space for recreational use: baseball diamonds, football fields, tennis courts, school playgrounds, and a splash pad. In addition, there are businesses, gas stations, stores, and even businesses run out of people’s homes. The roads are well maintained with sidewalks for pedestrians. Buses take the residents far and wide along an intricate network of transit lines. Again, I am unable to expound further without interviewing or surveying the residents.

East London Branch of the London Public Library

Both the building and the name of the East London branch are new. The former Eastwood branch was located just two blocks west at the corner of Clarke Road and Dundas Street, and changed its name and location when a brand new building opened as the East London branch on September 24, 2005. The former Eastwood branch was located in the plaza at the northeast corner of Clarke and Dundas for nineteen years. Older residents of east London remember when the Eastwood branch was called the Argyle branch and located in the Argyle mall from 1961 to 1986.

The architecture and décor of the East London branch are still fresh because the building is only five years old. With plenty of square feet of space and a collection of diverse materials, the East London branch seems set on serving and satisfying the information needs of the people in east London.

Conclusion

The East London community is dynamic, old, and diverse. There are many people living nearby, with a large number of stores and even some industrial factories. The infrastructure is good, and the residents travel to and from the neighbourhood often. People walk, ride buses and drive vehicles to get to work, school, and stores. The community is not perfect, but there are many assets on display for the casual observer. And the public library continues to be a presence to the residents nearby.

Posted by: libraryexplorer | January 22, 2010

Initial Impressions

It is Friday morning, 9:02am, and the library has just opened. One person is already sitting at a table by a large window. He’s engrossed in whatever it is he’s reading. His back is to the rest of the library, a large, open-aired room with many shelves of books, computers, tables, signs, and comfortable chairs.

A view of the south window, the children's section.

By 9:30, when I leave, several more groups of patrons occupy the library. As I walk out of the library I pass three men using the internet workstations; one woman browsing the children’s stacks with a child; another woman helping a young child use a computer while keeping an eye out for a younger sibling who plays with toys; a man browsing a display of recommended books; two librarians behind the circulation desk; and that same man I first noticed at the table by a large window.

The library side of the community centre.

I enjoyed the half hour I spent at the East London branch of the London Public Library. The building is only about five years old. The newness shows in the cleanliness of the floors, windows, washrooms, and furniture. From my first picture you can see that the library is part of a community centre. The YMCA used to run a fitness centre, which has since moved away, but continues to operate a childcare program.

The YMCA Childcare side of the community centre.

Although I arrived by car, three LTC bus routes go past the community centre: 2B, 7, & 37. The main entrance to the community centre from the medium-sized parking lot is large. Once a patron enters the doorway, he/she sees a sign 4 metres down the hallway that points to the library’s entrance. Off that same hallway are doors to the washrooms, several meeting rooms, and a multi-use room. A large bulletin board with community events posters hangs in that hallway.

Community events bulletin board.

Upon entering the library I am in a short, spacious corridor. To the left hangs a bulletin board with library events posters, and on the right a library materials drop box. The circulation desk sits at the corner where the short corridor turns into the library. The library’s materials sit on shelves in this large room. The rectangular room stretches from one wall of southern exposure windows that face the street on my left, to an opposing wall of windows with a view of residential houses beyond a wooden fence on my right. The high, light-coloured ceilings give the room a brightness that contrasts with the coziness of the carpet, furniture, books and forest green eastern wall behind me.

Comfortable furniture for reading near the magazines.

With strategically placed shelves, tables, and computers, the large room feels like a conglomerate of separate areas merged together seamlessly. If one walked from south to north, one would walk through a large children’s section past 3 CD ROM computers, and 4 internet workstations, past adult non-fiction, past audiobooks, CDs, videos & DVDs, and spy 7 internet workstations. Two computers for catalogue-searching overlook the hub of computers, which are located beside a separate meeting room. Around the corner is the “Teen Annex”, which looks over a table to the adult fiction. At the north end of the library, just beyond adult fiction, near comfortable chairs, are many magazines. I didn’t even mention the video/DVD viewing station and the “Discover Place” that displays new and recommended materials, and the photocopiers, all of which sit in the middle of the library, near the circulation desk.

The Teen Annex section.

Throughout the library large, bright, colourful signs hang from the ceiling, directing patrons to the materials or locations they seek. All the above locations I mentioned are beautifully and professionally labeled in English with no pictures. The circulation desk is also clearly identified with an English.

I want to learn more about the demographics of the people who make up the neighbourhoods surrounding and nearby the East London Public Library. Stay tuned for more details as I explore the community served by this branch library.

Posted by: libraryexplorer | January 15, 2010

Welcome

Welcome to my exploration of the East London Branch of the London Public Library (Ontario, Canada).  I will visit the branch several times over the next few months, and give my thoughts, reflections, commendations, and suggestions.  This is an assignment for LIS 9362, one of my courses for the Masters of Library and Information Sciences degree at the University of Western Ontario at London.

I have explored several other public libraries in Canada last month (December 2009), and may take some time later this semester to offer my reflections on them and their services.

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