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Mayor’s Column – August 17, 2016

August 17, 2016


When I was a child I thought as a child, I spoke as a child, and I read as a child – as did most of the children in my generation. Seven decades later I find much of my thinking and speaking still deeply rooted in and inspired and informed by the books I read as a child.

My family had left the established farming community in Saskatchewan when I was nine and moved into the wilderness at Big Lake, now just twenty minutes out of Chetwynd but then, a two-day trip with horses and wagon. Still, reading was a major factor in my growing up.

During those pristine and formative years there was still no school in the valley and certainly no Public Library. (We are just now celebrating its 50th anniversary.) But books we kids must have. To the rescue came a library service out of Victoria. Every six weeks we could order five or six books to be sent by mail which we boys devoured and returned postage paid by the library. Some of those stories, so eagerly anticipated and so soon read, still inform my thinking and thereby my actions.

Now we have it all (or do we?): internet, texting, pokemon, college, schools, internet, telephone, twitter, internet, and Public Library. With our instant access to information, right, wrong, or skewed, the Public Library with its paper books still ranks first in my mind. Gutenburg (c. 1436) did us a heroic service that Steve Jobs with all his apples, ipods, ipads, and iphones can only faintly approximate.

I confess, I do have and highly value my computer with its immediate access to the world, and my iphone on which you can contact me whenever I’m within range, but it’s my own library, my hundreds of books that give me real tactile, palpable pleasure, whose leaves I can flip or quietly turn forth or back, underline, highlight, even illuminate, whose aroma I can savor. (Yes, I admit I am living in the death zone; I’m of the generation that is passing on but I have this confidence: the book, the paper book, will never pass on.)

And so we have and we value our Public Library. How could we describe this most valued part of our culture after fifty years?

Unlike my home library that consists almost entirely of books of science, history, biography, travel, religion, reference, and others, our Public Library provides a wider range of mind-stimulating (mind boggling?) materials and activities.

Over the last half century Chetwynd’s library patrons have come to expect a high standard of programs and services and the library staff have come to expect an astonishing 60,473 in-person library visits. That’s like 165 visits every day for 365 days in the year (2015)!

Way to go Chetwynd!

The Library’s 1736 (2015) active cardholders can choose from 27,181 items in the physical collection, 69,809 items in the digital collection, and 212 options in program sessions. But don’t let finite numbers, real or imaginary, stymie your search for knowledge. The Library’s long digital arm can reach into the holdings of libraries around this globe and fetch for you the rarest of titles (Well, maybe that’s stretched just a little. Mirja and I once saw some rare titles under glass in a monastery on the Greek island of Patmos. No chance to get one of those – ever!)

Let your synapses be stimulated with some words from courtier, scientist, philosopher Sir Francis Bacon (1625) “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

Let me applaud our Library Board, Administration, and staff for carrying the tradition of Sir Francis into the 21st Century.


Merlin Nichols, Mayor