THE NORTH HATLEY LIBRARY
To understand the history of the North Hatley Library, a little must be said of the village it serves. North Hatley was 'discovered' as a summer resort at the end of the last century. The first summer residents were Americans from the Southern States who wanted to escape the heat, but were reluctant to spend time among the Yankees of the North. Feelings still ran high after the American Civil War. These first summer residents had the time and the means and the American traditions that made a Library a priority.
Another feature of North Hatley is the number of authors it has nourished. So far the bibliography of 'local authors' lists 50 published authors, including Hugh MacLennan, F.R. Scott, Gérard Godin and Roland Giguère, six Governor General's award winners for a total of 11 awards, and a Pulitzer prize. How could it not have a wonderful library?
Tradition relates that the Library began in 1896, in the form of young ladies taking books around in baskets! There exist minutes and financial records of the Library dating from 1898, and the incorporation of the Library took place in 1901. Its first fixed location was above the grocery store. In 1904 money was raised, land donated, a New York architect engaged and a library building erected.
The building has been enlarged twice since. In 1967 as a Centennial project a children's wing was added, and in 1986 a further extension was built and the existing building entirely renovated. This last expansion was made possible by a substantial legacy from a New York woman who spent a lot of time in North Hatley and supported many village projects. The legacy has also made a part time employee possible.
The Library today
The Library is managed by a board of directors, and day to day operations are handled by one part time employee (16 hours a week) and many volunteers. It receives no help from any level of government, and is funded by the interest from the legacy and other donations, as well as the yearly subscriptions.
The population of the village of North Hatley is 700 in winter, and double that in summer. The Library also serves people in the surrounding Township of Hatley (pop. 750), as well as some families in the nearby communities of Hatley, Ayer's Cliff, Katevale, Magog and Coaticook. Anglophones in particular find the North Hatley Library's collection attractive.
The Library covers nearly 200 square metres. If the community served is considered to be North Hatley (pop. 700) and Hatley Township (pop. 750), the norms proposed by the MAC suggest 100 to 135 square metres. The North Hatley Library must be one of the few libraries in Québec above the norm!
The collection consists of 14 000 documents, of which 3 500 are for children. This is also well above the norm (5 200 books). French books constitute about a third of the collection, reflecting the population served. About a thousand new books are added each year. For many years the Library has purchased large print books and taken them to an old people's home in the village. A donation this year allowed books on tape to be offered to the public. Inter library loan is always available, from the two universities of the area, or from the other libraries in l'ABIPE (l'Association des Bibliothèques publiques de l'Estrie).
Adult membership in the Library costs 15 $ a year for a couple, and there are 600 adult members. Children's membership is free and there are 500 child members. Circulation amounts to 11 500 loans a year, half in the adult section, half in the children's. The Library is open 14 hours a week (16.5 in summer), including Saturday morning and Wednesday evening.
There is a small English school in the village, and the Library enjoys bi-weekly visits from each class. In summer there are story hours in French and English, and special events are scheduled throughout the year.
When the Library was expanded, space was planned for art exhibitions. These have proven to be very popular. A very enjoyable show is the biannual 'North Hatley Show' ('Coup d'Oeil sur North Hatley'), a group show at which every one in the area is invited to exhibit his or her vision of the village and the countryside.
The Library has a micro computer. Its primary use is to manage the collection, and to print catalogue cards; it is also used for word processing, managing the membership, and printing signs. Circulation is done manually, partly because it is often handled by volunteers.
The North Hatley Library is a gem. The people of North Hatley have had imagination, talent, time and money, and have used them generously over the years to produce a beautiful and well equipped library which does its best to serve the community.
Written by Susan Gwyn
This article originaly appeared in Défi: Revue de l'Association des directeurs de bibliothèques publiques du Québec, vol. 6 no. 3, décembre 1991.