Our Library: Evolving Spaces

Each passing year in Library land brings with it a new space for community to discover—whether it be an updated children’s section, a new Library Kiosk in a rural area, or a revamped Information Desk, our spaces are always evolving and being shaped by our community.

2021 was witness to two major changes in the Halifax Public Libraries landscape. In April, we opened a whole new Library Office in Preston Township, and in October, our Dartmouth North Public Library reopened after a major interior renovation.

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Hello, Preston Township

Because the Preston Township Library Office opened in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, all efforts to host a grand opening were sidetracked due to health restrictions, and gathering limits. Forging forward, its new team of staff immediately began offering community service from a distance, and building strong relationships in the area, spreading awareness on the ground. Meet the Team here! 

The Preston Township Library Office is the second Library Office in Halifax Public Libraries’ roster of locations. Similar to the Musquodoboit Valley Library Office established in 2015  the Preston Township area was identified as an underserved community due to its distance from existing Libraries, and great potential for reach and growth.

The Library team has been doing outreach work in the area for years. Says Renise Cain, Community Specialist for Cole Harbour and Preston Township, "Working here in 2014, it wasn’t even yet a vision to have a space here. The hard work brought it to that level—the dedication from community that recognized that they were underserved and under-utilized. The Library coming in and meeting them where they are showed that there was a need for a presence on regular basis.”

Placing knowledgeable staff and easily accessible services directly in the community provides an opportunity for more community access and partnership building, plus the benefits of a small collection of books, holds pick-up services, and WiFi. The Library works in tandem with community and local organizations, developing or adapting services to meet local needs. 

“For me, that day we opened, it was a feeling of finally. It was like we finally broke ground. We were here,” says Renise. There are kids that have a place to go closer to home. We have more seniors coming out to the community garden. Community is now becoming more involved in programming, asking about services that we provide.”

The Office can be found on Trunk 7 in East Preston, and is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Over the past year, the team has hosted pop-ups in the area, signed up many new library cardholders, created culinary kits for kids, and provided literacy materials and information to schools. In April 2022, the team finally got a chance to step back and celebrate. A One Year Anniversary celebration saw many community members returning to reflect on the space, and new visitors exploring for the first time. Accompanied by music, dance, and cake, the energy was just a sampling of what’s yet to come.

“We still have to keep thriving. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We will continue to grow within the community, and keep listening. We accomplished one small goal. Now, it’s what’s next, what else can we accomplish? Only time will tell.”

Welcome back, Dartmouth North

In December 2020, after delays due to pandemic-related logistics, Dartmouth North Public Library closed its doors to undergo long-awaited interior renovations. Following the opening of its Outdoor Library in July 2018, an indoor update was the next natural and necessary step, to match its thriving exterior and meet growing community needs.

The Library opened a temporary location in Farrell Hall on Windmill Road throughout the renovation, where it continued to offer access to collections, computers, and limited programs. Behind the walls of Dartmouth North, a massive shift was taking place. The closure and temporary arrangements were a huge adjustment for staff and community.

Says Service Advisor, Darlene Kane, “Every day at work, I’m going to be working with people, talking to the people, talking to the public. You really get to know exactly what you mean to them. And sometimes I have to say, really, it means everything to them. The Library means everything to them. If we weren't here, I don't even know what would happen because we mean a really big deal to the people here.”

When the doors reopened on October 16, 2021, revealing a wider, brighter, more welcoming space, community and staff alike were filled with joy. Carla Foxe, Community Specialist, remembers her relief at seeing so many familiar faces return and take in the updated space with awe.

“We were thinking that maybe we might have to build up those relationships again, after time away from the space, but people still remember. It was instantaneous.” The sense of community that had always existed, had only grown stronger, with more room to thrive.

The ribbon cutting revealed new nooks for studying, gaming, and children’s play; improved staff work space, sliding door-access to the Outdoor Library, and moveable, comfortable furniture. Flexibility and freedom were key goals for the renovation. Many of the items—such as comfortable plush poufs and moveable shelves—have more than one use that can be decided by each person.

“You know, at every lunch hour we get about like 60 to 80 teenagers who come in from the school next door. And it's just like a second home to them,” says Darlene. “They know it's a place that they can come in and just relax and be themselves. They can go on the computers and play some games, and they can grab a snack from here.”

Jared, a regular at the branch, breaks out in a grin when he talks about the meaning of the branch and its staff in his life. “I come here to use the computers and job hunt; I sit in the little nooks—it’s a peaceful, quiet spot, and the staff are amazing. They’ve helped me so much; they’ve even helped me prepare for job interviews.”

What’s next?

These spaces are truly shaped by the staff and community members who fill them with ideas, creative energy, and relationship-building every day. We can’t wait to see what the next year brings in Library land and look forward to sharing more updates and progress.

Explore the latest Library Building Projects and renovation news.

This story was originally published as part of the Library's 2021-22 Annual Report to our community. Read and explore the full report here.