Let’s imagine the ideal candidate for the newly-created position of ‘Library Specialist, Outreach & Community Engagement’ for the Kawartha Lakes Library system.
There are library branches in 14 communities distributed around the City’s 3,059 sq. km — so lots of communities to reach out to, engage and create programs for, and each community is unique. Our ideal candidate should know the Kawartha Lakes and understand the diverse needs of its communities.
A knowledge of best practices for libraries would be important, but also an understanding of how to develop and deliver educational programs and offerings for all ages. And this isn’t a position for someone who wants to sit behind a desk — we want someone with energy and initiative.
Meet Lyndsay Bowen, and decide for yourself whether she ticks off all the boxes. Bowen grew up in Little Britain, but attended LCVI and was often in Lindsay for baseball and basketball, to lifeguard, or to drop in to the Lindsay library branch. Summers were spent in the northern stretches of the City — at a family cottage on Shadow Lake, between Coboconk and Norland.
After high school, Bowen took a concurrent education program at Brock, so has credentials to teach kids from Kindergarten to Grade 6. Not all teachers choose classroom teaching, and Bowen decided to apply her teaching skills to library work. The day after finishing teacher’s college, she started in on the Masters in Library and Information Sciences program at Western, taking the public libraries stream.
So she does kind of check off those boxes, eh? No surprise then that after graduating in April, Bowen was interviewed and hired. For Kawartha Lakes Library Director Jamie Anderson, beyond skill-sets, there was one essential quality: “We were looking for someone who is passionate about libraries and their importance to our communities.”
“Lyndsay definitely brings that. Plus, being a long-time Kawartha Lakes resident she understands the needs of our communities.”
She started May 29.
When we sit down to discuss her plans, it’s in a room in the basement of the Lindsay library branch, but her first words are, “My office is here but I hope to be out more than in.”
The Kawartha Lakes library specialist’s first step has been to renew connections and build on that network. She’s been in touch with staff at all of the branches to introduce herself and talk about how to update programs and develop new ones. “I want the community to have ownership,” she says.
Already she’s involved in programs and events, some traditional, some challenging perceptions of what libraries are about.
Books have always been at the very heart of what libraries have to offer, and she’s excited about the TD Summer Reading Club for kids. It kicks off June 23 and runs at all branches. As a teacher and lifelong reader herself she understands the value: “Two months is a long time for children to not be in school,” she explains.
“Although it is a great mental break, sometimes literacy skills may suffer as a result. The ‘summer slide’ as it is occasionally called, refers to children losing some of their reading ability over the summer, due to lack of dedicated reading time. The Summer Reading Club is a way to avoid this, and make reading fun.”
The launch itself, at the Lindsay library branch, might surprise anyone who still thinks libraries are all about shushing librarians and dusty stacks of books. Lindsay native Simon Ward of the Strumbellas will give an acoustic performance. He’ll leave behind more than memories of the performance. His collection of Lego mini figures — including characters from children’s literature — will be unveiled and go on permanent display.
Whenever possible, Bowen wants to forge partnerships. A good example of a rewarding partnership is the free set of coding lessons being offered at the Lindsay branch. They’re being delivered by Lindsay’s Pinnguaq Association (created as a not-for-profit Pangnirtung, Nunavut-based tech company) at the Lindsay library branch. Cutting-edge stuff (you can find details in this Advocate article).
A target for Bowen for the summer is one or two additional events that will surprise people. Lots of possible target audiences — families, kids, and seniors among them — and lots of possible communities to involve.
So, you’ll be experiencing, and just might be surprised by, the results of Bowen’s efforts. And chances are, you may run into her while she’s out and about.
Anderson says he hopes this new position “will help us move from being the best kept secret in the City to the most used resource that the City offers.”
A final note: “I want to encourage members of the community and community organizations to get involved with their libraries,” says Bowen. Contact her if you have ideas to share or proposals for programs for the Kawartha Lakes Library system at