New library CEO says libraries must remain community hubs

By Roderick Benns

Along the B.C. coastline, Jamie Anderson was no stranger to ferries and small airplanes as they skimmed across far-flung islands and coastal villages.

In his job as director of library services of Vancouver Island Regional Library, his area of responsibility included all of Vancouver Island, except for Victoria, as well as the whole, rural length of B.C.’s stunning coastline. In all, he had 39 branches he had responsibility over.

New library CEO says libraries must remain community hubs
New library CEO Jamie Anderson. Photo by Cheri Davidson, City of Kawartha Lakes.

As he takes the reins here as new CEO and library director for the City of Kawartha Lakes, Anderson won’t find the same daunting geography he faced in B.C., where he was born and raised. However, he will find that familiar mix of populations centres within rural life.

“The more I started to look at this opportunity, the most I knew it was for me, with that nice mix of the rural with urban services available,” Anderson tells The Lindsay Advocate.

Anderson’s father was originally from Ontario and he still has a number of relatives and friends in the province, albeit none in Kawartha Lakes.

The new CEO says libraries are integral to communities – especially for smaller ones.

“Libraries have changed over time. They’re no longer just warehouses of books, although we’ll always be in the book business,” he says.

“We’re more about being a community hub.”

Anderson says that community hub role is an important one.

“It’s the last spot you can come for free. You don’t have to buy a coffee. You can be by yourself or come and talk with a neighbour,” he says.

He says that’s very important when thinking about a library as critical civic space, especially for people of lower incomes.

“There’s no barriers to come into the library. We don’t check for library cards at the front desk. It doesn’t matter your income level,” and so it’s safe space for everyone.

Kawartha Lakes will see its newest branch take shape in Omemee later this month.

The former Ace Hardware store in the village is being transformed into the new library branch, coming in at an estimated 1,600 square feet.

Previously, its location at Coronation Hall was just 400 square feet and was too small to meet the needs of village residents.

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