Help restock the food bank with late fees
In the last 98 years, Camrose Public Library has grown to meet the needs of our ever-growing community, not just for information, but also for recreation, social engagement, and community connection. R. David Lankes, Director of the Library and Information Science Program at Syracuse University’s school of Information Studies said, “Bad libraries build collections. Good libraries build services (of which a collection is only one). Great libraries build communities”
On the road to community building, Camrose Public Library has gone through many iterations, both physically and more importantly, in our service goals. We began as a repository of information: a gateway to learning and recreational reading materials, building our collection in reaction to our community’s needs and interests. With the advent of the digital age, the library became more interactive with our patrons in different ways, with programs, services, and outreach that brought us out into the community.
Currently at Camrose Public Library, we are working toward becoming a proactive organization that coordinates with other like-minded people and service organizations. Our goal is to not solely respond to Camrose community needs, but also to share our knowledge, skills, and resources to anticipate and intervene with programs and services before the need for them become dire.
One area where we saw we could affect change in our community is the growing issue of food insecurity. PROOF, a research agency funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, defines food insecurity as the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints. According to Food Banks Canada’s Hunger Count 2016, between 2008 and 2016, food bank use by Albertans has risen by 136 per cent, and one in six children in Canada live with food insecurity. Two major programs at Camrose Public Library help people living with food insecurity in the city of Camrose.
In 2015, Camrose District Support Services and the Camrose Social Development Committee, with the help of a University of Alberta-Augustana student did a city-wide child care survey, which confirmed something we who work in community spaces already know: Libraries and other public spaces are used as alternatives to formal child care for school-aged children. Survey respondents said that (and this is something library staff have heard many time directly from parents) Camrose Public Library is the place where their children go after school until the parents are done their workday. Many of these children arrive hungry, with nothing left in their lunch kits (some have reported not having had any lunch at all), so we saw an opportunity to help children and families who may be living with food insecurity. CDSS gave us a generous seed grant in 2016, with Wild Rose Co-op taking over major funding of the program in July of 2017.
With the help of our amazing funders and generous private donors, we have provided healthy snacks every day after school for over 4,500 children in Grades 1-12 during the 2016-17 school year. I was honoured to have the opportunity to speak about Snacks in the Stacks to other library staff and board members at the Alberta Association of Library Trustees Conference as well as at The Alberta Library Conference last spring.
October is Canadian Library Month, and this is another great opportunity for the library to give back to our community. For the entire month of October, we invite library patrons to pay their overdue fines with food items, which they can leave here at the library. At the end of the month, we load up our vehicles and drive all the donations to our local food bank. Library staff will waive $1 in overdue fines for each item donated, or more at the discretion of library staff depending on the donation (peanut butter is expensive).
If you are interested in helping Camrose Public Library fight food insecurity, we will gratefully accept donations to help provide healthy food to school children at Snacks in the Stacks. Alternatively, if you have fines to pay, please consider doing so this month with a donation of non-perishable food items and help us feed the bodies and minds of your fellow Camrosians.
Nicole Bannick is the Program Coordinator of the Camrose Public Library. Outside of work, she enjoys time with her family, baking, comic-cons, and cheesy 16-bit role playing games.