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Gillies recalls library transition

By July 29, 2022No Comments
Ron Gillies, who recently retired as the head of the Lloydminster Public Library, spoke about the evolution of libraries at the Rotary Club of Lloydminster’s Monday lunch. Geoff Lee Meridian Source

 

Ron Gillies has become the figurehead of the Lloydminster Public Library since retiring as the head librarian in April after a 31-year career.

He was invited to share his knowledge about the evolution of libraries at the Rotary Club of Lloydminster’s lunch on Monday, with a focus on changes in technology at the local branch.

“Over the years, the library has gone from a very processed and paper-based organization to one that uses technology,” said Gillies.

“The greatest change for staff was the day we stopped having to file cards.”

He says the introduction of electronic processing freed staff to proactively work with the public instead of manually moving bits of pasteboard around.

Gillies says the second biggest change came in the mid-90s when the Lloydminster library became one of the first access project sites in the country using the internet.

“We were able to offer public internet access to people in the library, so people could poke around and find out what this internet thing was all about and how important it could be in their lives,” he said.

Gillies oversaw change at six library locations in the city starting with space at a place called the Alberta Home near the Telus building downtown.

The library also bounced back and forth over time between City Hall and the old post office in the clock tower building.

“In 1967, they purpose-built a library in the Native Friendship Centre. In the early 90s, we moved to the Atrium Centre and last summer, we moved to the LloydMall,” said Gillies.

An untimely flood at the mall delayed the opening of the library until January this year.

Gillies invites people to visit the re-imagined space to see how far the library has come from being a lender of books to being a community of communities.

“The new library is a space for people to come and experiment and try things and turn robots loose,” he said.

Gillies notes the new library offers everything from kids’ programming and things to do in the summer to boost literacy, to attracting teens to chat about anime or Dungeons and Dragons.

“Adults were involved over the winter doing Metis beading—things that pull people together with a common interest,” he said.

Gillies says libraries are fun and they’re good, and what he misses the most so far is his staff and the people who came through the door to visit.

“You can’t really do well in a library unless you’re a people person and like interacting with what we call customers, clients or whatever it is,” he said.

“They make the day interesting, challenging and enjoyable. Being retired and missing that contact has probably been the biggest change.”

Looking back, Gillies says he had a great career and met some wonderfully creative people and worked with some “super” people who have gone on to other places.

“I’ve had great colleagues, great customers and a fun time. I would absolutely do it again,” he said.

He says libraries are the ultimate cost savers when times are tough, as they are today, and people can’t afford to pay for hard-cover books or pay for downloading audio on a streaming basis.

“They have to economize,” he says, noting library cards are free in Lloydminster.

Gillies makes use of his card to unlock a world of digital information he helped bring to the library during his working years.

“I follow 10 or 15 newspapers. I couldn’t afford to subscribe to all those publishers’ sites, but through the centralized program funded by the Province of Saskatchewan, I have access to them,” he said.

In retirement, Gillies likes to read new books and bestsellers and “stuff like techno thrillers” and thrillers or mysteries.

“I’ve been known to watch movies that never did make it on to Netflix’s list, but they are still out there. There’s a variety of things like that,” said Gillies.

He says the last time he checked, about one third of library checkout was electronic, one third media such as videos and one third print.

“It comes back to the physical formats change, but people are always looking for new and current content or they’re wanting to find stuff from a long time ago that they’re wanting to re-read,” said Gillies.

“Because of technology, we can get it and store it for them instead of finding an ‘oldie moldy’ book.”