Located 25 minutes east of Brandon on Canadian Forces Base Shilo, the Shilo Community Library serves a unique mix of military members and families, youth who attend the local elementary school, preschoolers from the Military Family Resource Centre, as well as civilians from the surrounding area.
First time visitors are usually surprised by the size of the library’s collection as well as its wide range of subjects. If what patrons are after isn’t available at the Shilo Community Library, it is connected to a robust inter-library loan network that is regularly used to source materials from across the province in only a few days; given the remote location of the Shilo community, this is an invaluable service to its members. As part of this network, the Shilo library also lends its materials to other libraries on behalf of patrons across Manitoba. With this in mind, one can say that the Shilo Community Library provides its services both locally and provincially.
Another core service provided by the Shilo Community Library is working closely with a variety of programs on the base to promote literacy among young readers. Grade 7/8 students from O’Kelly School, for example, attend the library on a regular basis to source materials for their book reports as well as pleasure reading. Groups from the local daycare also attend the library to hear stories read by the librarians. The library also lends their space to a program where parents read to their children as a way of encouraging the practice, which is critical in building foundational literacy skills.
Those who browse the library will likely notice featured items that foster a sense of inclusivity and which bring attention to the social issues of our times; highlighting works that shed light on Indigenous culture as a path to Reconciliation, materials that include LGBTQ+ themes, or ones that highlight the achievements of racialized groups are just some examples. The library has also implemented accessible labelling for patrons to easily identify books that touch on such social themes. Local interest is also a staple theme of the library and ranges from local municipal topics to province-wide ones. More creative themes include “dead authors whose work lives on,” which showcases posthumously published works.
As a space, the library is used for a variety of purposes beyond reading and borrowing books. Some examples include working professionals conducting meetings, student tutoring sessions, or simply a place to seek refuge from the heat and socialize during the summer months. Patrons are also invited to work on communal puzzles that are on display and have the opportunity to borrow one to work on at home if they so desire.
Whether it’s a new genre or a more advanced read, patrons of all ages are encouraged to seek out new literary experiences at the Shilo Community Library. If serving the needs of adult readers both locally and provincially is the mind of this library, then promoting literacy amongst youth would be its heart, which is reflected in the wall art of the library. There is also a section dedicated to books written by some of the library’s youth patrons, which serves as both encouragement for the author and inspiration for future ones.
The MLA would like to extend a special thank you to Patricia Wells (Head Librarian) and Emilee DeSommer-Dennis (Assistant Librarian) for providing a glimpse into the Shilo Community Library’s world and the positive impact they’re making on the Shilo and surrounding community.
Article and Photographs by Rustam Dow, MLA Communications Committee Member