Chantelle Leslie-Leach, board director of the Pembroke Public Library in the Ottawa Valley, is eager to promote the ‘library’s services – especially their digital services.
After a conversation with her hairdresser, a military spouse, she realized that many of the ‘library’s services, like free ebooks, audiobooks, and even movies, were largely unknown to the military community.
Especially the fact that these digital resources could be accessed anywhere that has an internet connection.
Leslie-Leach asked her hairdresser what her husband did in his downtime when he was deployed. Her hairdresser responded that he reads and he works out, plays cards, they play games and watch movies. When Leslie-Leach asked what he read, the response was anything he can get his hands on.
“She said he bought a bunch of books while he was deployed, they were shipped to him through Amazon and he paid for himself,” said Leslie-Leach. “Some of those books took anywhere from three to four weeks to arrive.”
This discovery prompted Leslie-Leach to seek out other military members to discuss the library’s digital collection and using that collection during a deployment. Each time she was met with silence, a bit of shock, and then all would comment about how that was an excellent idea. They wished they had have thought of it while deployed.
“When I pitched this idea to them, their eyes lit up, and they were just silent and shocked and thrilled with the idea of what relief that would give them,” said Leslie-Leach.
Anna Ritza, a librarian with Pembroke Public Library, explained the library’s digital collection.
“Libby is a digital library, and it contains hundreds of eBooks and eAudiobooks. To access this digital library, you need to download the Libby app, and you need a library card number. This is how most digital collections work: download the app, enter your library card number, search the collection, select your desired book/magazine/movie, and download. For magazine lovers, we have Flipster, for movie lovers we have BBC Landmark Video Collection and Kanopy.”
She adds all you need is the internet.
Leslie-Leach believes that the public library’s collection would help increase deployed soldiers quality of life while away from home.
In fact, she has approached military members from Garrison Petawawa about the idea of building awareness of all that the library has to offer to soldiers, veterans, and their families. One idea that was mentioned was to have a collection of library cards available for deployed personnel.
The cards would be available to them, and they could access the digital collection from anywhere they may be serving. All they would need is the internet.
“I firmly believe that this initiative, and Libraries as a whole, if promoted heavily and thoroughly, can and will significantly help the spirits; social well being; and mental health of our military members, their families, and veterans – both deployed and at home,” said Leslie-Leach. “Canadian libraries offer accessible & free services – available to all citizens. The library services are ‘there for the taking.’ They are available in a multitude of languages, in rural and urban areas, all over Canada.”
As Leslie-Leach points out, not only are books available in both official languages but often public libraries have collections of materials in many other languages.
“A library-card to the Pembroke Public Library or any Public Library is your passport to the world, and it is free. While deployed in a faraway land, a soldier can access (for free and instantly) Ebooks, audiobooks, movies, magazines, documentaries, the list goes on,” said Leslie-Leach. “Or, while at home, soldiers or veterans or their spouses and children, can walk into a welcoming, safe atmosphere and be helped by kind, passionate, knowledgeable librarians.”
Libraries contain more than just books and magazines. In fact, libraries are very much community hubs that strive to be welcoming to all members of their communities.
“We offer a wide range of services, some of which are standard, such as reader’s advisory, pre-selection service, loaning from our collection, delivering books for homebound patrons, providing office services like faxing, printing and scanning, maintaining public computer access, free wifi, general research assistance, and renting our boardroom,” said Ritza. “While some services are unique such as 3D printing, class visits, historical research, and access to our digital collections.”
For the family members who remain behind, the library can be a fabulous place to meet members of the community as they offer all sorts of programs and activities.
“When planning programs, we try to meet the recreational, educational, and informational needs of the community in addition to providing interesting and fun events for our patrons to attend,” said Ritza.
At the Pembroke Public Library the programs range from: yoga, STEAM storytimes, and maker space programs for children; homework help and Teen Advisory Group for older kids; and language groups (English, French, and Spanish), free tax clinics, writers groups, and book clubs for adults, and much more.
For Chantelle Leslie-Leach, her main goal is to help with the mental wellbeing of military personnel while they are deployed, as well as that of veterans and military families.
She firmly believes that being able to access the library, either its digital collection or being able to visit the physical location, can help do just that.
“The Library is a node in a network that connects all members of the community and treats them with fairness and integrity. The place is always alive with stories, either in print or shared between people, and everyone refers to each other by their first name,” said Ritza. “To me, it is an enchanted place that is both spiritual and sacred. I love the library because of the way I feel when I am in it.”
The Pembroke Library is not the first to recognize the important role public libraries can play for military members.
The Kingston Public Library has a video of a retired member, Arthur Laramie, who advocates for the use library services and resources to provide a sense of belonging, and a tool to preserve or maintain mental wellbeing.
So, if you have not done so already, be sure to check out your local public library. The staff will be thrilled to see you, and show you their wonderful – free – collections, help you find something interesting to read, and maybe tempt you to join a program or two. The library is a great place to get to know your community. And, if you are a military member preparing for a deployment or your partner is deployed, the digital collection may be an excellent resource for your downtime.