Rosemary Ganley: One week, three good-news Peterborough stories
This week I’m highlighting three recent experiences that demonstrate the healthy debate and many talents in our city. Everything took a week, in the middle of winter, and cost $22 in all.
I went to the public library for a free hour-long help session on technology with the personable Jayden; then to the Theater Guild on Rogers Street for a powerful play directed by Jane Werger and finally to an interesting lecture at Traill College by a graduate, Jeanette Menzies, who is Canada’s Ambassador to Iceland.
I had received a notification from the state that I had to take my age-related driver’s license test. When I heard the startling words, “Just scan the QR code,” I knew I needed help. The Peterborough Public Library, of course.
People enjoy the modern, renovated library with an open foyer, a collection of 300,000 physical media (books, magazines, music and audio books) and 200,000 digital holdings. Membership is free for citizens. There’s free Wi-Fi and in a popular move last year all fines for overdue items were abolished.
There is a small car park and additional parking across the street in the former Baskin Robbins factory. Alongside park benches and a bike rack is a dramatically undulating sculpture entitled Your Story.
“One should really go in and think,” says Jennifer Jones, the feisty head librarian.
Jones is from Welland and attended Western University where he earned a Masters of Library Science. She’s a fan of Electric City FC, the local soccer team (has the scarf and all).
Commenting on the recent controversy surrounding a Story Time transgender reading, Jones says, “We are an inclusive institution and the reader was recommended to us.” She works closely with Library Services Director Mark Stewart and a team of 27 full- and part-time staff together.
Jones tells me the library has an excellent relationship with the nearby safe injection site. Security guards are available when the library is open, 10 hours a day on weekdays and 7 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. The annual budget, funded largely by the city, is $3.5 million.
“We have one foot in two worlds, between the old and the new,” says Jones. “I think books will endure, but we also want to help people access the new ways of learning.”
The library had 20,000 active cardholders in 2021 and 181,000 in-person visits in 2022. In terms of usage, Peterborough ranks third out of seven cities of a similar size. In 2024 the library will open a branch at the Athletics-Aquatic Center to be built on the corner of Park Street and Lansdowne Street.
Jones wants offices north, west, and east of the city and is in discussion with Trent University and Fleming College.
As for relevant theater in our city, ‘The Crucible’ has been playing to delighted houses this month. Written by Arthur Miller in the 1950s at the height of the McCarthy Committee hearings, it examines hysteria, lies, and a fundamentalist religious atmosphere in a small Massachusetts town that led to the execution of 16 women as “witches” in the 17th century. led. We could hear echoes of our own time.
The cast, including Kevin O’Neill and Christopher Spear, magically blurred the line between audience as observer and audience as participant.
A snowy walk to friendly Traill College on Dublin Street brought me to the lecture by Ms. Menzies. It was free, as were five other Community Talks this winter. Menzies graduated from Trento 23 years ago. She had been drawn to Peterborough from Winnipeg by President Thomas Symons and had read his book To Know Ourselves.
She started rowing in Trent and says she learned time management and critical thinking. Their life stories in Iceland were memorable, including their bike ride around the big island, their efforts to learn Icelandic, and discussions with other diplomats stationed there about how to deal with the Russian ambassador.