One of my favourite children’s picture books, Picture a Tree by Toronto artist and writer Barbara Reid, includes a wonderful image originally made in plasticine in which a girl sits astride a tree limb on a riverbank reading a book. The girl is still wearing her summer wear—t-shirt, shorts, no socks—while her reflection in the river shows her in full school uniform, the leaves around her starting to change colour and drop into the water. The caption reads, “You may see the end of one thing, or the start of something new”.
As a dedicated employer of young people in the Creston area, the library experiences these seasonal cycles as well, as each year Student Pages and volunteers graduate and move onto bigger and better things, simultaneously creating opportunities for other young people to gain valuable work experience at the library.
This year, three of our Student Pages have graduated: Elizabeth Nygren, Axel Marini, and Dave Aldrich. I spoke with Elizabeth about what her experiences working at the library over the past couple of years.
“The library was the first place I started volunteering when I was 14”, she recalls. “Then I joined 4YBY (the library’s teen advisory group) which created the library’s teen space, and that led to me joining the Town of Creston’s Teen Advisory Committee”. For Elizabeth, volunteering and eventually working at the library made her feel “more community-minded, more focussed, like I had a role in the community.”
Elizabeth feels that the library helps to bridge the gap between teens and the rest of the community. “When a group of teenagers walk around town in the evening, people look suspiciously at you. But the library welcomes us. We have our own teen space, teen programs, and a great collection of books just for us. We can see that the library cares about us, and people trust the library. The library doesn’t exclude anyone. You are who you are. There’s no conflict.”
Working at the library provides opportunities for youth not necessarily offered at other workplaces. “It seems that at many workplaces, you are more expendable. At the library, you are expected to put more care into what you are doing. It’s not about money. It’s about taking the time to understand and help people. Every person you meet has different thinking, needs different kinds of information. You learn patience and compassion, and a willingness to laugh and smile together.”
Experience helping patrons with diverse information needs is also great training for someone heading off to university. “Lots of people just search once, and if they can’t find what they need, they think it’s not there”, Elizabeth notes. “When searching a library catalogue or online, you have to be able to expand, refine and filter your searches. Sometimes you need to try other methods and sources to find what you are looking for. Afterwards, you remember what worked and you can reapply that in new situations.” She has also learned “how to better evaluate websites and sources”, she adds.
Working at the library has given Elizabeth greater confidence in dealing with social situations. “I’m more outgoing now. I’ve talked with so many different kinds of people, it’s helped me get to know myself. And I’ve learned that people want to smile. When you come out and smile first, chances are that they will smile back.”
While Elizabeth is off to Thompson Rivers University to start a Journalism program, the library has recently welcomed two new student pages to the staff: Madi Lacoursiere and Leif Deatherage. Both Madi and Leif come from families with strong connections to Creston Valley Public Library.
Thank you to our outgoing Student Pages for your outstanding dedication to the library and our patrons! And here is to happy endings and new beginnings!
Aaron Francis is the Chief Librarian at Creston Valley Public Library. He is currently reading I Am No One by Patrick Flanery.