The children’s room in a public library is a space where magic happens.
Children discover the joy of reading, the excitement of a lively story time and the encouragement of a librarian who knows your name and welcomes you with a smile. We regularly hear from adults who grew up visiting the children’s room in Picton and who remember fondly their childhood visits, how important it was to them. The importance of a children’s room hasn’t change over time. Thanks to a generous gift from Valerie Hussey, the children’s room will receive a long-awaited renovation as part of the expansion. This means more space for an expanded collection, fresh flooring and paint, a nursing area, improved sight lines and a child-friendly washroom with a change table. There are few who have had greater impact on Canadian children’s book publishing than Valerie Hussey. Valerie co-owned and ran Kids Can Press for 30 years; a company focussed on Canadian children’s books.
As she explains, “Kids Can started as a collective. I began in 1978 and brought in a business partner a few years later. We pooled our skills to great effect; she was a children’s librarian and I had worked in educational publishing.”
Kids Can publishes books for children, not textbooks. “Canada didn’t have much of a children’s book publishing industry when I first came to the country. Supporting the children’s room is a natural outgrowth of my lifetime work.“ When asked why she supports the library expansion, Valerie is passionate in her conviction.
“I think the public library is one of the most important democratizing institutions in our society. With the presence of the internet, many people think that the library is obsolete, irrelevant and of limited value. I don’t agree with that; if anything, I think it has a new, critically important value and usefulness. To those who aren’t sure, I say, go to the library and you may be surprised at how well it is used. The library is a place of access and inspiration. Librarians are the keepers of its riches, and the guides through which people learn to access knowledge. Accessing bits and bytes of information through the internet, does not constitute developing knowledge. If we are going to be an educated, engaged citizenry, capable of clear critical thought at a moment when there is so much noise distracting our attention from what is true, then the library is one essential service that can help.”
Valerie made a donation at the beginning of the fundraising campaign but decided to make this major gift when in light of the pandemic, she, “was concerned that the final stage of the campaign was stalled. It can be difficult to close any major fundraising campaign and we don’t have the option of not closing this one. I decided this was something I could do, I hope my action inspires others.”