Here we are, on the verge of October, the month in which we Canadians express our love for public libraries. As we gear up for the launches and the open houses, the special programming, and community outreach initiatives, let’s take a few minutes and recognize the diversity inherent within the public library eco-system in Ontario and across Canada. We have large urban libraries, small rural branches, and medium-sized systems serving varying mixes of rural and urban communities. We have libraries that tailor their services to francophone and multilingual communities; we have libraries with hundreds of staff, libraries where the entirely part-time staff never see each other, and we still even have a few libraries staffed by a single individual.
While we recognize the rich diversity of what a public library means in this country, let’s remember and celebrate the particular richness of the First Nation public libraries serving on-reserve First Nation communities. These public libraries, with greater financial struggles than municipal public libraries, rely on the passion, dedication and creativity of the women and men who staff them. Like all public libraries, First Nation public libraries contribute to literacy, lifelong learning, and the pursuit of opportunities to better one’s circumstances and realize one’s dreams. Like all public libraries, First Nation public libraries offer crucial access to information and communications technology, often the only access available to a high proportion of residents.
In addition, First Nation public libraries develop unique resources and creative programs aimed at restoring and preserving the Indigenous languages spoken locally. How apt it is, therefore, that the theme for this year’s First Nations Public Library Week is Revitalizing Indigenous Languages! Hint! If you look closely at the gorgeous FNPL Week artwork by Ojibway artist Joshua Pawis-Steckley, you will see words, from a mix of Indigenous languages, beautifully embedded in the design. And for anyone who might be interested, you can download, from the Ontario Library Service–North website, definitions for each of the words that appear in the poster.
First Nations Public Library Week, September 30th – October 5th, launches on Monday, September 30th at Kettle and Stony Point Public Library on the shores of Lake Huron. Whether or not you can join me in attending, please join me in congratulating Ontario’s First Nations public libraries on the many ways in which they contribute to vibrant, growing First Nations communities.