State of the World: The Modern Library

Amidst the challenges of climate change, housing crises, and social distress, the modern library must be prepared to step up to meet community needs with nimbleness and compassion on any given day.

This evolution is reflected not only through increased programming—through the 2022-2023 fiscal year, Halifax Public Libraries hosted 83 official climate action-related lectures and events, and 160 housing support sessions—but also through a rise in responding to incidents and impacts in real-time.

Hurricane Fiona

On a not-so-average day in September 2022, Hurricane Fiona wreaked havoc on Nova Scotia, causing widespread power outages, affecting infrastructure and routine. Local publication, The Eastern Shore Cooperator, found itself facing a significant obstacle in getting its latest issue to print. The local Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library proved to be more than a safe harbour in the storm—it helped them keep the presses rolling.

"Production of the paper was totally dependent on being online," says Editor Richard Bell. "We don't have a generator, and WiFi was down, so the Library turned out to be a lifeboat for making this happen. We didn’t miss a beat.”

Essential Eastern Shore

Jason Puddister, Branch Services Lead at Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library, emphasizes the significance of the Eastern Shore Cooperator to the community. The publication offers a unique perspective on life in the Eastern Shore. Through their stories and features, the Cooperator supports and uplifts the community by capturing moments that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Similarly, Richard Bell sees the Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library as an integral part of his daily routine and community growth. A regular visitor since 2008, he notes: "Staff has always been just great, not only with helping me—but I'm sitting there and reading the paper, and I see them solving problems all the time.”

A safe haven

Renovated and reopened in 2018 alongside HRM’s Recreation Centre, the Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library is a bustling, colourful nook in its community.

When Fiona swept through the community, the Library was able to open soon after the devastation that left many in the area without power for several days.

The team at Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library transformed every available room and area into additional workspaces for community members. They offered coffee, snacks, and device charging stations. This was happening in other branches across HRM, too.

Reflecting on the aftermath of the hurricane, Jason fondly remembers the small conversations over coffee that served as a source of connection for  community members. These interactions brought together people from all walks of life and reminded them that they were not alone. Jason notes the overwhelming gratitude expressed by the community during this challenging time, emphasizing the touching gesture of a community member who dropped off a tray of sandwiches for everyone at the Library.

Richard Bell and his team were stationed at Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library as “home base” for several days, rushing to meet their deadline. "Because it was such a gathering place for the whole community, one of the only places that had power," he says, “it also became a hub where people could find out how others were coping in the aftermath of the hurricane.”

An important issue

With a distribution to more than 14,000 households, The Eastern Shore Cooperator holds great significance for the community. "Historically, local papers have been the sort of backbone of democracy across the country," says Bell. The Cooperator, now in its tenth year of publishing, plays a vital role in keeping folks from Lawrencetown through the Prestons, and up to Musquodoboit Valley and Ecum Secum informed about local events and issues.

One of the newspaper's key strengths, emphasizes Bell, is helping local small businesses and creators gain exposure. Missing a print deadline would have negatively impacted time-sensitive advertising, event promotions, and local business needs.

Thanks to the mutual support of community, the October 2022 issue made it to print. Issues arrived and were distributed to community—including the newsstand at Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library—on schedule.

Explore more

This story was originally created as part of Halifax Public Libraries' 2022-23 Annual Report. Read the full report here.

Keen to read more about how your Library impacts community? Check out our Library Stories collection.