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Essa Township library transforms into community hub

'There is an increased demand for entertainment, social connection and for safe spaces,' says library CEO
Holly Elliott (left), co-ordinator of children and family experiences, and Emily Nakeff, co-ordinator of public engagement at the Essa Public Library, have the hula hoops ready for Family Fun Night on Aug. 24 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Angus branch.

In the age of instant answers — thanks Google — public libraries have had to reinvent themselves to remain relevant.

No longer the single go-to source for information, public libraries have morphed into meeting and gathering places — places where moms and dads and children can explore their own creativity and passions and share their discoveries with like-minded folks.

A quick scan of upcoming events and programs at the Essa Public Library clearly illustrates the changing dynamic. 

In the Kids Zone, there are programs like singalongs, the Wiggles & Giggles baby group and storytime, offered in both English and French.

For teens there’s information on community service, mental wellness and what’s next — a resource for young people heading off to high school, college or university or looking for career information.

For adults, there’s a world of classics and the latest best-sellers.

“Essa Public Library is truly a community hub,” said Laura Wark, the library’s chief executive officer. “There is an increased demand for entertainment, social connection and for safe spaces.”

To satiate the masses, Wark and her team have introduced a wide variety of activities that 20 years ago would have been absolute no-nos in most libraries — ukuleles, podcasting kits and, just this week, they added balls and rackets for pickleball.

It’s an ever-changing tableau and you never know what you might find.

“Staying current is a constant priority,” Wark said. “Regular pulse checks on the interests of patrons and needs in the community is key to ensuring that we are offering the most valuable programs and supports at any given time.”

This past summer, Wark said there was a flood of new members, people who are either new to the area or new to the library, exploring and enjoying the resources for the first time.

For them, the library’s Family Fun Night on Thursday, Aug. 24 from 4-7 p.m. at the Angus branch (8505 County Rd. 10), will be their inaugural opportunity to take in the annual event.

Featuring family-friendly activities like hula hoops and giant games, this year’s shindig features Touch-A-Truck, an experience organizers think children will love.

“Kids will have an opportunity to get up close and personal,” said Holly Elliott, the library's co-ordinator of children and family experiences, adding kids can “hop into the driver’s seats of these vehicles, learn from experts about how they work, and even test out the control panels on some.”

The wee folk are also invited to help paint a school bus and create a unique work of art.

This is a free event and there will be free refreshments, while they last.

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Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wayne Doyle covers the townships of Springwater, Oro-Medonte and Essa for BarrieToday under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is funded by the Government of Canada
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