For the past two years, Heather Robinson, Head of the Children’s and Teens’ Services Department, has also been acting as the Library Revitalization Project Coordinator. During the Grand Reopening of St. Thomas Public Library on Thursday, March 29, 2012, Heather’s role as Project Coordinator came to a bittersweet end. The following is Heather’s speech during the Grand Reopening event – the final thoughts and words of wisdom that mark the culmination of the Library Revitalization Project Coordinator position:
When CEO/Chief Librarian Rudi Denham asked me if I would accept the position of “Library Revitalization Project Coordinator”, I replied almost immediately that I would. She replied kiddingly, “You’re crazy” and there were times when I felt so particularly overwhelmed that I was convinced that I had been crazy to accept. For the most part, however, I found the process exhilarating
, exciting and full of new challenges.
Shortly after my role actually began, I was at a conference in Toronto and met a colleague who had just finished a library renovation working with the same architect we had chosen, Chamberlain Architect Services. While waiting in a lineup at break, she proudly showed me photographs of her beautiful new spaces. As we parted ways, she told me that “I would work harder than I had ever worked in my whole life” and that “I would face decisions almost daily about things that I knew nothing about”. The latter, in particular, made me cringe. I asked her how I would cope and she replied, “Heather, you are a librarian. You’ll find out what you need to know.”
After several months of upheaval and arduous moves to and from the Elgin Mall, we are now in the enviable position of being back “home”, namely the Revitalized St. Thomas Public Library. I now get to shake my head empathetically at others who are in the beginning stages of a renovation. Although we’re back, there are many “deficiencies”, some very small and some larger, that still exist. Whenever I feel as though I am drowning in these deficiencies though, I take a tour around the Library and watch how our customers are using it and I’m reminded that we’ve given the library back to our “people”.
There is nothing more gratifying than seeing the fruits of our labour. The rewards are in the way that our customers are using the spaces that we designed. At any given time, there are folks on their laptops in front of the large windows on the Main Floor, people tucked away in the study rooms on the Second Floor, teens socializing in the Teen Lounge or children performing a puppet show for their parents in the Palmer Youth Library. The library is a “destination” and the “living room” of our community just as we’d hoped it would be.
I never dreamed I’d have an opportunity to work with such a wide range of amazing people, from the architects to interior designers, contractors and those who are in the trades. They taught me a great deal about their jobs and patiently assisted me with mine. And I wouldn’t have made it without the talented staff and Board Members of this Library.
I’d like to share 10 things that I learned in my role as Library Revitalization Project Coordinator in closing:
- A measuring tape is a ‘must’ for any woman’s purse.
- Masking tape works very effectively for laying out the placement of shelving – but be sure to get the quality stuff.
- There definitely is beauty in “brutalism”, our building’s style of architecture. It was so interesting to see this building stripped of its contents and then its aesthetics, then watch it being built back up bit by bit.
- Some of the best “To Do” lists are created at 2:00 in the morning.
- Expect that your paycheque will not go nearly as far if you work in a Mall. But hey, my wardrobe is now in pretty great shape!
- Hard hats and safety boots do not accessorize well with any outfit.
- Always expect the unexpected when you work in a public library. Shortly after we opened at the Mall, two budgies escaped from the pet store and flew straight into our Adult Department. They perched on the beams over our storage boxes and had to be rescued…twice!
- If you can’t beat water leaks, join them. We actually had to position shelves so that the materials on them would not suffer water damage from leaks that are still present.
- If you don’t know something, there is a good chance that someone on this marvelous Library staff will and they will be willing to share.
- If your boss asks you to do something challenging, say “yes”. It may just be the opportunity of a lifetime.
– Heather Robinson
Head of Children’s and Teens’ Services Department
Former Library Revitalization Project Coordinator