The Book Drop: Creston librarian appreciates opportunity to serve community

Web Lead

Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at the Creston Valley Public Library.

Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at the Creston Valley Public Library.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

—Confucius

The library where I grew up was in a small space next to the volunteer fire hall. I don’t remember much about it, except for Mrs. Wilson who ran the place and who lived a few doors down from us. We were are all terrified of Mr. Wilson, who’d chase after you waving his fist if you cut across his precious lawn on the way home, but Mrs. Wilson always had a smile for us neighbourhood brats.

This little community library was where I first learned to love books, and I haven’t stopped loving them! When I first started thinking about a career in libraries, I reflected back on this little library and what it meant to me as a child growing up.

Like me, a lot of people become librarians after spending a few years wandering through the job market and not finding what we were looking for out of life. In my case, I spent a number of years as an English as a second language teacher and, later, director of a couple of private post-secondary ESL institutions. I served the moderately wealthy international set, and got by well enough financially, but never felt that I was contributing fully to my community or fulfilling my purpose in life.

When I was around 30 years old, I enrolled in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC. I didn’t really know what to expect out of a career in libraries, but I knew that I loved books, and I wanted to serve my community, and this was enough to get me started down the path.

Most of my fellow students were in a similar stage of life. A couple had been lawyers, one was the director of Nelson Public Library, others were teachers, computer programmers, salespeople. We all wanted a new start, a career where we could balance family life and work, and an opportunity to help make the world a little bit better through our work.

After graduation, I was one of the lucky ones. Thanks in part to the support of an influential children’s literature professor, I was hired as an auxiliary librarian at Vancouver Public Library. Here I had the opportunity to facilitate story time programs, do outreach in homeless shelters in the Downtown Eastside, work with First Nations storytellers, learn about collection management and program evaluation, and much more.

As chief librarian at Creston Valley Public Library, I’m learning a whole new set of skills: budget management, public relations, facilities planning, and how to keep on the good side of Regional District of Central Kootenay directors, among other things.

Through it all, I have never once regretted the career path I chose. I am simultaneously proud and humbled by the opportunity to serve this wonderful community as your librarian. And while I can’t promise perfection, I do promise to do my best to protect and increase the investment that the Creston Valley has made in the library and its staff.

When the little community library I grew up with closed its doors, Mrs. Wilson moved to the Vernon Branch of Okanagan Regional Library. I met her again a couple of years ago on the eve of her retirement. She still remembered me and she was still the kind, gentle and gracious lady I remembered. I thanked her for her inspiration and her many, many years of service, and wished her well in her retirement.

Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at the Creston and District Public Library.