Bkejwanong First Nation Public Library is a welcoming and helpful life-long learning community resource that encourages the sharing of and respect for Library materials and resources.
Summer is officially here! Walpole Island First Nation celebrated the Summer Solstice at the Sports Complex grounds all afternoon with guest musicians entertaining from 12-3 pm while a menu of hotdogs and munchies staved off the hungries. Family-friendly activities included vendors and displays such as the I Do Business display and Comprehensive Community Planning display. TREC personnel recognized the graduates of a two-week (renewable energy) wind turbine technical training course, and inflatables amused the children. What a wonderful way to celebrate National Aboriginal Day!
Now, I should introduce myself to the cyber community. I’m Linda Lou (Sands) Classens, former Bkejwanong FN Librarian/CEO from 2002-2007. During this tenure, my fabulous Committee ladies and I planned the addition which became known as the Meeting Room. [Anishnaabe name to follow soon.] With a strong interest in literacy and the arts, a stage and dressing room graced this space, and programming for all ages, infants through Elders, became the norm. All were welcome and inclusivity was practised. Music/coffee houses, puppetry/marionettes, plays, drama classes, murals, photograph classes, reading programs, crafts, Seniors’ Tea Parties/Bingos, movie nights, and Native Language classes flung wide the doors to all community interests.
None of this would have been possible without the generous support of successful proposal writing. For example, Ontario Trillium Foundation provided 3-year funding which provided accessibility via a new partially paved parking lot as well as a plethora of equipment, children’s furniture and books, a reading centre, and big screen and projector. Literacy remained the bedrock of our interest since literacy is crucial to student success. Other proposals garnered the funds to further enhance our programs and spaces.
After 5 years and with my two daughters entering University and High school, I decided to return to teaching and simultaneously began working on my M.Ed in FN Educational Administration. [I had previously almost completed my M.Ed in Curriculum Studies.] As a teacher, books and literacy remained of high importance and interest, compelling me to share my love of books and reading with our community. The Library is a perfect place to spread this philosophy outside the classroom.
Now, I’m back – and since November 2015 my team of volunteers have spent countless hours priming and painting the entire library. Warm neutral colours enhance the re-organized spaces – the Children’s area and the computer area are particularly attractive and accessible. Also, the sadly-worn carpet was replaced with easier-to-maintain tiles. Numerous dump runs and recycling runs eliminated excess clutter, and a healthy weeding is eliminating outdated books. The newly-bared shelves are now displaying resources currently being switched around. First Nation resources now demand attention when patrons walk through our doors – attractively displayed. DVDs now occupy the children’s books, while those books are now being shepherded into a corner nook which, hopefully soon, will have window seats built to accommodate older children. The young children’s area remains colourful.
Another area under development is the teen’s area. Stay tuned as this work progresses. There are still many resources to be catalogued and placed on shelves as soon as said shelves are totally weeded and reorganized. Our newly revamped computer area has stylish black leather task chairs and six new computers to replace the old, frequently-requiring-service computers. (We miss Ray since he no longer has to come fix the computers.) Jokes aside, the library is now so bright and open, our patrons frequently comment on its beautiful appearance.
The Vision is Big! So big that partnerships and volunteers remain critical to our success, and proposal writing is the order of the day. The Library Committee now includes members who once served years ago – it’s like old home week! Also, the Employment and Training program blessed me with a full-time worker as of the end of March. Lynn puts her retail and teacher aide experience to good use along with her tremendous energy.
We are currently gearing up for our TD Summer Reading program with plans in place for school-age children from the community at large, plus the Bkejwanong Children’s Centre and Bkejwang BK. Adult reading programs will happen in conjunction with the Home and Community Care program. [I had the wonderful opportunity to be the guest storyteller at the annual Elder’s Conference in March. It is so gratifying to see people of all age groups enraptured with a story or legend.] Thank you, Karen, for this blessing! Our Spring Fling Open House and Box Social was, unfortunately, cancelled since our floors were being stripped and re-waxed. However, we hope to reschedule very soon. Additionally, plans are afoot for a Fairy Tea Party for little ones, and a Danielle Steele Tea Party to discard most of this extensive collection. Room rentals add variety to our days as does the large influx of interested patrons using the computers. The monthly History and Tea Genealogy meetings will conclude for the summer after June 27. [Please note the June genealogy meeting will run from 2-5 pm, with hearty refreshments.] Finally, Supervisors’ meetings again take place in the Meeting Room the last Monday of the month.
With the interior library renovations now mostly complete, work is ongoing outside. The flower boxes must be emptied to eradicate an infestation of cicada killer wasps [which reportedly don’t sting people, but nevertheless frighten library goers.] What a task this is – digging out all the dirt to be safely disposed of and then revising the budget and work plan to purchase more soil and flowers. Next, I would love to see the creation of a beautiful path linking the library grounds with the road/sidewalk leading to the Seniors’ Algonquin Residence and the Children’s Centre. Again, this dream provides more accessibility and good PR for the Library.
Future plans: a monthly newsletter to update community on our schedule of events; new books/resources; critique of Library staff/committee members’ current favourite book/movie, etc.
In closing, an astonishing number of people have visited our library for programs and our different services. It is our plan to add new programs and to serve even more people; after all, the Vision IS Large!
GINDASSDAA! (Let’s Read!)
Bkejwanong First Nation Public Library has existed in our community since 1967 located in various other buildings, before finally settling in 1994, into its present home, on Tecumseh Rd, Walpole Island First Nation. It was the vision of many community leaders and elders to have a Library right here in Bkejwanong Territory, offering books, movies, magazines, resources, computer use and a gathering place for singing, learning, and the arts. This vision and the hard work putting it into action has served the community well as we consider our beautiful building, our sought-after meeting room, the programs, services and activities that we host monthly and seasonally.
Today our library stands a monument to that founding vision… and much more. We now have books, CDs, DVDs, Native Language resources, patron’s services of photocopying and faxing, Patron computers, Internet access, WIFI and E-resources. The building had expanded over 11 years ago with a new addition – a meeting and programming room with a small stage and big-screen for promoting the arts and hosting Library activities.
Bkejwanong Library is designated a part-time Library. Opens Hours vary seasonally, see left side panel for days and times. In addition to our open hours, increased space has led to increased programming. We still gather as community to sing in the building, we host drumming circles, coffee houses, and family karaoke nights. We also host Local History nights, Genealogy workshops, documentary viewings, Meet-and-Greet authors, family entertainment nights, Winter Read Family Literacy sessions and TD Summer Reading Program. Children’s give-away books dispersed at literacy events help families develop their own home libraries. The workshops, classes and fun events we offer to patrons of all ages, expands their information base and delight in literacy and learning. As local History and Genealogy interest continues to grow, patrons are perceiving and expecting the Library’s role as a centre for archival photos, family trees, and historical records to become more formal.
Bkejwanong Library is a hub of our community – a place everyone is welcome, a place that prioritizes “Homework First!” and computer usage is designed around that principle. Adults and teens can access information online or from the shelves where many “good reads” are waiting. Children can make crafts, use literacy station computers, and lie on a rug to read a good book. Bkejwanong First Nation Public Library is an active member of the community connected to other programs, resources and supports. We welcome your visit!!
Quote from Author Charlie Quimby “I am PASSIONATE about public libraries. They are bastions of access to information, portals to opportunity and havens for all comers. Libraries represent what is best and most just in our communities.”