Jason Setnyk

Our Cornwall Public Library is connected to Community Development – Interview with the Chief Librarian Dawn Kiddell

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Article and photo by Jason Setnyk.

Article and photo by Jason Setnyk.

Cornwall Public Library is about to embark on a community based planning process that will explore Cornwall citizens’ expectations and opinions about library services. Emphasis will be less on satisfaction with current services, which were well documented during the last two plans, and more on the value that Cornwall places on library services, on how they see themselves using the library in the future, and how the library will contribute to community life. This will be getting underway in April and everyone will have to opportunity to contribute via in-person or online surveys, and community consultation meetings.

Jason Setnyk interviewed Dawn Kiddell who is the CEO and Chief Librarian of the Cornwall Public Library. Kiddell has worked there for over fifteen years, and her responsibilities include overseeing all of the Library’s operations and managing the overall budget. Kiddell graduated McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications, and with a Master of Library and Information Studies. She also has a degree in Journalism from Concordia University. Kiddell is married and she has two children. In my interview with Kiddell we learn what kind of impact the library has on our community – from economic development, to arts and culture, and education.

How does our Library help with Economic Development?

The library is an attraction for people looking to relocate. We get a lot of positive comments from people moving to Cornwall about the importance of a good library in the community. We also attract 500 people a day to the downtown. We have membership from people in the Counties, and they may do their shopping after visiting the Library. We are a downtown destination! Libraries directly contribute to the economic well-being of a community. We employee people in the community, including students.

How does our Library promote and/or support Arts and Culture?

We have a lot of partnerships and co-sponsored programs. For example; Art exhibits, writer’s workshops, contests, seminars, live music, and arts and crafts that are included as a part of our children’s programming. We act as a cultural venue for as many agencies as we can accommodate.

Does the Cornwall Public Library support the Culture Plan?

The public library is perfectly positioned to participate in the municipal cultural planning process because of its high public profile as an existing cultural institution, its accessibility, and its role and a social and cultural integrator.

How does our Library help with literacy and education, and what age groups benefit from the Library?

We provide free programs and resources for lifelong learning for all ages, from Baby Tales to Senior’s programs such as philosophy courses. We have school visits, where students pick up books or do class assignments here. Literacy tutors meet students here at the library. We also have a special literacy collection for new adult readers.

What might people not know about Libraries?

We are about so much more than books. We have many different formats. We have access to ebooks. (Kiddell is holding an E-book reader in the photo). People can download E-books and audio books here or at home with their library membership card.

How are Libraries of the 21st Century changing?

Information is information. It comes in ever changing formats. Our mission is to provide equitable access to information for everyone. It creates a level playing field, especially in a community that has economic challenges. Libraries promote education, literacy, and life long learning. We have free wireless, access to research databases, and public computer stations. Since Blockbuster closed we are one of the only places to find DVD’s, and there is no charge to borrow them. We have a performance licence for feature films.

Tell us about Library Week in Ontario?

Ontario Public Library Week was started in 1985 by Ontario’s Ministry of Culture to promote Public Library service and the idea that a strong library system is the cornerstone of a strong community. In celebration, we have activities which in the past have included author talks, children’s programs, Friends of the Library book sales, and a Juried Art Show. It varies from year to year. Various clubs meet here as well. We also have a writer’s group meeting, bridge, chess, yoga, and activities pretty much every single day. There has been a French Book Group that has been meeting here for over ten years. Many of these type of activities occur year round not just during Library Week.

Lets talking a bit about funding. Is provincial funding enough?

The provincial funding model hasn’t been changed since it was adjusted in 1997 and is now only 5% of the overall budget. It definitely needs to be increased to reflect the changes over the past 16 years. Fundraising accounts for another 6 and the rest comes from the municipality. The Federal government recently announced cuts to Canada’s National Library and Archives which will means that we can no longer receive Interlibrary loans from them. Their microfilm was very popular with our users.

The Seeker and Jason Setnyk would like to thank Dawn Kiddell for this interview. You can visit your Library at 45 Second Street East in beautiful downtown Cornwall Ontario.

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