Libraries in Nova Scotia are using fresh programming to attract new visitors

Libraries in Nova Scotia are using new programming to attract visitors and boost attendance after pandemic-related closures curtailed in-person events.

Some libraries adapted by offering online programming at the height of COVID, but people are increasingly returning to libraries now.

“People are very keen on programming right now,” said Hannah Colville, manager of programming and community engagement for Central Library with Halifax Public Libraries. 

“Everyone’s had a hard time during COVID and I think they’re looking for some joy. They’re looking for learning as well.”

Colville said the Central Library has seen a resurgence in arts and culture programming in particular. Those include food demonstrations and live music events.

Teens take part in Pride programming at the Halifax Central Library last spring. (Halifax Public Libraries)

Paul O’Regan Hall has attracted hundreds of people for performances and concerts. There are after-school programs that include reading support and tutoring.

Colville said COVID has been hard on children but new programs offer space to let them gather, socialize and learn.

Moves are underway in other parts of the province to bring people back to libraries. 

At the Cape Breton Regional Library in Sydney, a smiling wooden robot is used to teach kids about coding. 

Jessica MacDougall is the STEAM kit developer at the Cape Breton Regional Library in Sydney. (Emily Latimer)

The robot is part of a program kit to teach kids about STEAM: science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

“STEAM is really growing in our community, and especially in the school system,” said Jessica MacDougall, STEAM kit developer at the library. “It’s a really nice thing to have it more accessible to the public.”

MacDougall runs sessions with hands-on activities for kids ages five and up that encourage problem-solving and critical thinking.

Sessions took place over the summer at the Ingonish, Baddeck and Sydney library branches. They drew up to 15 kids, which MacDougall says is a great turnout.

“It’s been wildly successful,” MacDougall said of the coding program. “I’ve had people asking for us to come back.”

The wooden robot is just one way librarians are looking to attract new visitors. 

“We’re really trying to rebound after not having the programs during COVID,” said Erin Phillips, digital services librarian at the Cape Breton Regional Library.

Erin Phillips is the digital services librarian at the Cape Breton Regional Library. (Emily Latimer)

Phillips said the library is focused on bringing in more library programs and making more school visits to make up for lost time during COVID. 

“We know from our experience and user feedback … what people really want to see in their library going forward is more programs, and for all ages,” she said. 

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