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Library Spotlight: Brandon Public Library Downtown Branch

Posted in Library Spotlights, and Uncategorized

“I don’t think I’ll be able to help you find that.”
– No librarian, ever.

Located in the heart of Manitoba’s second largest city, the Brandon Public Library (BPL) serves one of the most diverse populations in the province through its inclusive space and ever-evolving services, programming and collection. It is deeply rooted in the social and cultural fabric of the city and continuously seeks out new and innovative ways to add to its vibrancy.

Newcomers to Canada find a welcoming environment at the BPL. Local agencies such as Westman Immigrant Services, for example, regularly introduce their clients to the BPL as a resource for improving their English skills. By embracing such opportunities, the BPL also plays an important role in promoting a culture of diversity and inclusivity in the city. Other examples of the library’s celebration of culture and diversity include a prominent display of Indigenous materials, generously funded by the Brandon Neighborhood Renewal Corporation. The library also showcases works by local artists, some of which were produced in the library itself.

With many vulnerable individuals residing in Brandon’s downtown district, the BPL also provides information about local services to assist with issues ranging from housing insecurity, mental health, to more basic needs such as obtaining government identification and access to mail delivery. Branch Supervisor, Carson Rogers, likened this role to being a switchboard for the downtown hub while emphasizing the high importance placed on respect in all interactions.

Branch Supervisor, Carson Rogers

Another way that the BPL removes barriers and builds bridges in the community is through its delivery of library materials to patrons who are homebound or in care homes. The service, which is supported by the library’s passionate volunteers, is highly appreciated by patrons who face challenges in attending the library in-person. The library is also dedicated to providing alternative formats for patrons with print disabilities through collaborations with organizations like the Centre for Equitable Library Access and the National Network for Equitable Library Service. If technology itself is a barrier to accessing information or online services, the BPL has tech savvy staff are keen to help patrons navigate our increasingly digitized world.

The BPL also provides ample educational opportunities for the city’s younger readers, both independently and in conjunction with the local school division. In addition to regular programming aimed at building foundational literacy skills, the library puts on special programs during PD days and school breaks throughout the year. The library’s Stem Club, which is geared towards patrons aged 9-13, explores topics ranging from math, aviation, “hacking,” and fossils. “Meet the Author” events have provided students with opportunities to engage in dialogue with authors whose works they’ve studied in class, an exercise that not only enhances students’ literary analysis skills but is bound to inspire future generations of writers as well. Recent authors include Kenneth Oppel and his work Silverwing, and local author Katherena Vermette with her feature work The Break.

While some prefer the individual nature of diving into a book as a healthy form of escapism, others enjoy the more social aspects of reading and libraries, which the BPL fully supports.  Book Club kits, for instance, complete with several copies of a work and discussion prompts are available for loan. For those interested in learning new skills or simply being among people with similar interests, events such as “Stitching in the Stacks” have brought together community members around creative activities like embroidery.

The BPL is also part of a growing trend of loaning items other than books. Physical Activity Cards, which grant access to the local Sportsplex, are available for 5-day loan and are in high demand. Other materials available for loan include telescopes, LeapFrog kits or interactive learning systems for children, and board games. For patrons with (or hopes of having) a green thumb, there is a seed library available at the BPL which is supported by the Assiniboine Food Forest Initiative.

In addition to its extensive collection of print materials, the library also provides access to a range of quality digital resources. Interested in exploring the “world’s largest collection of international recipes”? Streaming classic cinema, documentaries and television? Learning about local history or that of your own family? Accessing over 56,000 eBook & audiobooks? These are just some of the eResources available to BPL members – available anytime, anywhere.

Believe it or not, the above are just some of the ways the BPL serves its patrons and makes Brandon a more inclusive and vibrant community. Its seemingly boundless approach to information, services, and programming would not be possible without its visionary leadership and passionate staff. The MLA would like to extend its gratitude to the BPL for being a source of inspiration, not only to its patrons, but to the community of library professionals as well.

Article and Photographs by Rustam Dow, MLA Communications Committee Member