Our Library: Finding Answers

A look behind the scenes

You visit the Library in person or online; maybe you browse the shelves or pick up holds; maybe you ask a question. Our goal is that you find or experience what you need while you’re here.

Do you ever wonder what’s happening behind the scenes to make this all possible?

Sharon McInnis plays a big role in the day-to-day happenings at Halifax Central Library and through our regional Ask the Library Team—particularly, our Obituary Search Services.

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17 years of stories

Sharon began working at the Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library over 17 years ago. When staff shifted across the street for Central Library’s opening in 2014, she witnessed the impact of its bright windows, open spaces, and magical atmosphere.

“Our users and the community—people were clapping and even, you know, tearing up a little bit. We were happy to see each other. Everyone was ready to serve the community and just have this beautiful and welcoming place for everyone.”

Through the years, Sharon’s role has shifted within the Library. She has a Library Technician degree and has served as a clerk, worked in the Reference Department, and is now full time as Service Support. She has worked directly with her now supervisor, Branch Services Lead, Julia Khodos, for over 15 years. The two have a lot to reminisce over.

“She's always here, you know? If I have a question about borrower services, Sharon, she always knows the answer,” says Julia.

Looking back

While she can recite Dewey Decimal section numbers off the top of her head, and loves routing books and holds through Central Library’s Automated Materials Handling Machine, Sharon feels most at home in the quietude of the past.

In stark contrast to the modern environment of Central Library’s many floors, Obituary Search Services houses thousands of records dating back to 1880 in its historical holdings newspapers and periodicals.

Sharon visits the stacks frequently to investigate Obituary Search Services questions that come in via Library Desks or our Ask the Library email inbox.

An individual or family may be looking into a deceased distant relative, for example, seeking details around their passing in Nova Scotia. Service Advisors, such as Sharon, will receive the request and the sleuthing begins. Using the information provided (and a lot of general instinct), they work with the Ask the Library team to determine which records to pull from the Library’s files to view and search on microfilm.

A swift response

“We receive a lot of compliments,” say Sharon and Julia about Obituary Search Services at the Library. “It's like, 'Wow, that was fast!'”

Sharon is known for her speed in solving these mysteries and her attention to detail. The role feels like a perfect fit; her passion for helping provide answers, fuels her work every day.

Creating history

Sharon is keen to pass on her knowledge and skills to her colleagues, to shape the future of Obituary Search Services at the Library.

“Even finding one simple obituary means a lot to a family,” Julia says. And the feedback we get from customers—can come from around the world, because these people have some connections and roots with Nova Scotia. This is the last puzzle, you know? And in our whole family history, this puzzle was found by Sharon.” 

Learn more about Obituary Search Services at the Library.

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.