Canadian Libraries Spotlight: PEI Public Library Service

In January we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the seventh in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. We’re going to turn it right over to our fabulous guest blogger Roseanne to introduce herself and tell you all about her Books to Go program!

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The Librarian

Hi! My name is Roseanne Gauthier, and I’m the Youth Services Librarian for the PEI Public Library Service. I’ve only been in this position for a few months – previously I was the Children’s Librarian at the Confederation Centre Library in downtown Charlottetown. I was born and raised in Prince Edward Island and consider myself unbelievably lucky to be working in my home province.

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The Library System

There are 26 public libraries across Prince Edward Island, serving a population of 145, 000. The largest branch, the Confederation Centre Public Library, is located in the capital city of Charlottetown, while the other branches reach from Souris (near the Island’s eastern tip) to Tignish (near the Island’s northwestern tip). Most branches are rural libraries staffed by one person, and Confederation Centre is the only library with a full-time, dedicated children’s librarian. Traditionally, PEI was made up of small farming and fishing communities; however, increasingly Islanders are moving to areas in and around Charlottetown, and the province’s other major municipality, Summerside.

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The Program

A common comment from our patrons with young families is that they are too busy to spend time browsing the libraries’ shelves to find the best books to read with their children. These patrons understand the importance of reading and books, but they struggle with fitting the library into their day-to-day lives.

Mulling over this challenge, the PLS’ Literacy and Public Services Librarian, Rebecca Boulter, remembered a program she had seen at a few other libraries, including the Cape Breton Regional Library Service – picture books in a bag that could be checked out together. What if parents could rush into a library, grab a bag of high-quality picture books, check them all out in one quick transaction, and head back out the door? The PLS could save patrons time and maybe encourage them to make a few more visits to the library than they would otherwise.

Rebecca worked closely with the former Youth Services Librarian, as well as our French Services Coordinator, to come up with a list of titles, and Books to Go!/ Livres sur le pouce! was born. The program launched as a pilot project in October 2014 with 20 bags of books available at our four busiest English branches and 20 bags of books one of our French branches. Each bag contains 5 carefully selected picture books.

After a bit of slow start, Books to Go! started to take off – getting the book bags out from behind the circulation desk so patrons could help themselves was key. And although the original intent was to save parents time, it’s been fun to learn about other ways the bags are being used. Grandparents who aren’t always familiar with what’s new in children’s literature borrow them when their grandchildren are coming to visit. Families borrow them to amuse their children during errands, long waits in doctor’s offices, a sibling’s hockey practice, or on road trips. Some kids even get excited to visit the library and pick a new “surprise” bag – “I’ll try #3 this week, please!”

Although right now there are no plans to expand the Books to Go! program, it’s certainly been a great addition to our services for children. We’d recommend it to any libraries struggling to find solutions for time-strapped families on the go!

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