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by Jessie Bach
This month’s Library Profile takes us on a ride down Highway Nine, about forty-five minutes northeast of Drumheller, to the Village of Delia—population: 247. You may remember hearing about Delia in the news a year or two back when “Morgan the mystic unicorn,” a twelve-foot tall, six-hundred-pound stainless steel statue, was stolen from its home in front of the Hand Hills Village Market. Despite this shocking crime, Delia is known as a friendly, quaint prairie village that features a historic main street, a hockey arena, a museum, restaurants, a couple of shops, and of course, a public library.
The Delia Municipal Library was established in 1983, and is now located in a beautiful, brand-new space within the village’s school. It boasts an open concept floorplan, with plenty of flexible place for students and the public to gather, participate in activities and programs, or read quietly with a good book. The Delia Library is known for being an early adopter of new technologies and was among the first libraries in the province to acquire a 3D printer!
I caught up with veteran library manager and lifelong Delia resident, Leah Hunter, to hear about her plans for the Summer Reading Program, what it’s like to operate a public library located in the local school, and what she’s learned after more than thirty years in the library business.
Leah, what do you love most about your job as the library manager in Delia?
What I love the most is the people and the relationships. I enjoy developing programs and building collections our community can access. It’s important to me that our community has a beautiful, comfortable, and welcoming library space to enjoy. I also work as an educational assistant in the school, so days pass very quickly as I move between classrooms and the library. The students find a way to light my face with a smile every day.
What’s a typical day like at the library?
A typical day at my library is busy with visiting classes and students. We often serve as a quiet space for students needing to study, read, or decompress during the day. After school, you will often find kids building masterpieces at the Lego table or having a cup of tea and a chat with me. We strive to be innovative, and the people who visit are very excited to use our 3D printers and Makerspace kits. Our library really reflects the different facets of the community we serve.
The Delia Municipal Library is in the local public school. What opportunities and challenges does this arrangement present?
The school-housed public library model works very well in our community. We are fortunate to have a school administration that supports having members of the public visiting the school space. We do ensure that there are public library hours outside of school hours, but our community knows they are welcome here anytime. The relationship between the library and the school is mutually beneficial—the school is able to provide us with spaces like the gym for our Pickleball program, for example, and other indoor spaces for summer programs or special events. In turn, the students have more choices in their collections and have the opportunity to use interlibrary loan services to bring in any books that interest them.
“Summer Reading” is coming up! What programs and activities will be happening at your library to celebrate?
This summer is looking so fun! We are participating in the TD Summer Reading Club, and so far we have fifty-six registered participants.
Our summer programming will kick off with a “Sweet Summer S.T.E.M. Program” exploring all things watermelon! From making watermelon slime to watermelon volcanoes, watermelon painting to watermelon piñatas—it’s sure to be a fun afternoon.
We will also be hosting a game called “So You Want to Become a Detective,” and holding a weekly “Evil Genius S.T.E.M. Club” that will feature a range of cool activities, including Lego and 3D printing challenges. We partnered with a local organization that offers kids’ camps, and we are working together to hold a preschool program in the afternoons called “Little Investigators.” Finally, we will host several “Summer Fun Days” where kids will work together to solve mysteries.
You recently celebrated thirty years as the library manager in Delia—congratulations! How has your library and the work that you do as manager evolved in that time?
Things have changed so much in the last thirty years! I’ve seen the library catalogue evolve from the card system to microfiche, to numerous automated systems and eventually the online TRACpac database that we use today. Bringing new technologies like 3D printing, Makerspace projects, and so many others to our small library has always been something that really excites me.
How people read books has really changed over the last thirty years and I am sure it will continue to change. No matter what, though, having access to information and expanding your worldview with books is essential. I feel change is so vital and think libraries will be constantly evolving. Exciting!
Throughout my thirty years as library manager, the things that have endured are the relationships I have. This is why customer service is so important—people remember how you treated them!
Anything else you’d like to add or share about the Delia Municipal Library or your experience as the library manager?
This job has been so much more than a job! The people I have developed relationships with will last a lifetime and have enriched my life greatly. I truly feel libraries are such important places. I hope my community will continue to see the importance of this space in years to come.
Thanks so much, Leah!
About the Author:
Beyond the Stacks is a column about libraries in Alberta and the useful and necessary services they provide.
Jessie Bach grew up on a family farm in Southern Alberta and is a lifelong library user and book lover. She has a degree in history from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. Jessie has worked in archives, academic libraries, corporate records management, and now public libraries. Her current role is Communications & Engagement Manager at Marigold Library System. She currently lives in Calgary with her partner and, in true librarian fashion, three cats. Jessie likes to read (of course), knit, consume way too many true crime podcasts, and lift weights in the gym.