Selkirk library staff prove why libraries are still important

Children and youth in the Selkirk community don’t often get told to “Shhh!” at the Gaynor Family Regional Library.

In fact, kids are encouraged to talk, play and even sing just like they would at home.

“This is your living room,” said Leesa Furgale, Children’s programming coordinator at the Selkirk library. “That’s what we want in this community, for the kids to feel like they can come in here at any time.”

What originally started as a one-week stint as a fill-in, turned into a seventeen-year-and-counting career for Furgale, leading educational early learning programming at Gaynor Family Regional Library (GFRL). Classes, workshops and activities put on by Furgale cover age ranges from as old as one week to early adolescents.

For many young children, Furgale became an initial, positive association with the library, creating a sense of comfort that has lasted, for some, well into adulthood.

“It was huge for me for kids to know that they had something worthwhile to say to an adult. That they would remember the little part that I would have had in their life and to come back, and still check in? It’s a huge compliment,” said Furgale.

Parents and guardians, meanwhile, say Furgale’s enthusiasm, energy and creativity are only matched by her engaging educational programming.

“This is just my job, and I love what I do,” said Furgale, adding she was a bit emotional after hearing parents in the Selkirk community wanted to recognize her work.

One of Furgale’s most popular programs is the library’s weekly “Lego League,” where the childhood activity of “playing with Lego” is combined with core STEM concepts.

“It’s just grown from building particular Lego things to robotics and coding,” said Joanna Quail, whose son has been part of the Lego League for several years. “He’s just benefitted so much from the program, it’s great to see.”

Quail was the person who originally contacted CTV News about Furgale, pointing out how Furgale’s programs get her son and other children excited just going to the library.

“When the kids walk in they shout Leesa’s name, they’re so excited to see her,” said Quail. “It’s just such a great place for families in the community to go.”

Sandy Brisco often attends Furgale’s “rhyme time” class at GFRL with her grandchildren, all girls under four. It’s an early literacy program that engages infants and toddlers in linguistic exercises.

“She’s creating this environment where they love to learn about language,” said Brisco.

And, the lessons, says Brisco, say with the kids even after the leave the library.

“If the kids are having a bad moment you can just bring out a rhyme and sing it, and it distracts them,” she said. “It’s something we just carry on doing at home as well.”

During the pandemic, Furgale kept most of her classes going, transitioning to a remote video setup.

Carol Greg, who has four grandchildren of varying ages, says the classes were a bright spot during an otherwise trying time for kids and guardians alike.

“It was great because the kids got to see each other and meet each other,” said Gregg,” some are in other schools that they now run into during soccer or hockey.”

“They form friendships and Lisa encourages that. It’s not just her job, she connects with those children.”

For Furgale, all the stories of strong community connections formed through her programs are an example of why libraries, even in an increasingly digital society, are still incredibly important.

“And if anyone is wondering why libraries are important, I personally invite you to come down here and see why, any day.” 

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