It just occurred to me, after learning from our local librarian that Pemberton’s circulation figures are literally off the charts, that I could not have landed in a better place.
By off the charts, I mean, books move through this community at a higher rate than any other library in the province that serves a small town (5,000 – 10,000 folks). Effectively, the numbers from 2016 mean that every person in Pemberton borrows 13.4 books a year, making us more voracious consumers of words and stories than folks in Smithers, Grand Forks, Burns Lake or Fernie. Given that I’ve just spent a few weeks interviewing people in Smithers for several articles for Arc’teryx’s Fall 2017 #CelebrateWild campaign, and effectively falling in the love with the place, this is heartening. FOMO will always rise up, and these things remind us, Here, here, just look here.
So often, I suspect, what we are seeking is right in front of us. It might just require a little sweat equity, a bit of lens polishing, some meditation breathing. It might just require us getting out of our own way.
Pemberton’s amazing librarian, Emma Gillis, shared the charts with me, because she’s justifiably proud, and I think she appreciated having someone who would geek out on them with as much enthusiasm as she has.
Every month the library is breaking records – 8,719 people visited the Library in November 2016. It’s June, and they’re tracking at well over 7,000 visits each month so far this year.
She shared this information with me as I was borrowing a packet of seeds from the library – where the first Pemberton Seed Library has found its home. It was a natural partnership, shrugged Emma, when Dawn Johnson called and asked if the seed library could set up there – a box of seeds available on loan for any aspiring gardener to plant (and return, post-harvest, at least 4 months from now).
The Pemberton Library is not just about books and shushing people. Not at all. They’re devoted to life literacy – empowering people to navigate their own lives, the community, and the world, with as many tools as possible. Books, yes. But also, Kindles, if you want to borrow one, entertainment if you need it, organic seeds. Because librarians know that the hardest part of anything can be getting started. And so, this little institution is there saying, here, let us remove any hurdles in your way. Let us give you a boost.
And I thought with sudden blinding clarity: were I to seek out my perfect town, THIS is the data I’d request. I’d call up the library and say, what’s your circulation per capita? And then I’d know that I would be among readers, curious people, people who wondered about things, were interested in learning and growing, who drifted towards words when faced with uncertainty, and even if they read different things from me, would be the kind of people who said, oh yes, a writer, of course, what a wonderful thing to want to be…
And here I am.
Buoyed by a community that says, “I like your writing.”
I am still learning how to take a compliment.
But I am glad to get them.
Best of Pemberton, the annual reader survey in the Pique newsmagazine that celebrates the town’s most popular places, food, businesses and personalities, has given me the nod a few times now. The 2017 issue has just come out. And as awkward as it makes me feel when someone emails and says, “oh, can you put together a few words about what this means”, it is a recognition that I really appreciate.
It’s a bit like rounding the corner on a long race to come upon a little cheer squad of people with cowbells and encouraging signs. It puts a little more spring in the step, blurs your vision with a dose of salt, is an energy boost that you can’t get from a gel pack.
You never know what a little bit of cheerleading can do for someone. I don’t think I can overestimate how impactful a few genuine encouraging words can be. I try to give that energy back to the community, too, because it’s definitely sustained me.
It is deeply sustaining to me.
If there is any proof that what you put out in the world comes back to you a hundred fold, I can only think that this Best of Pemberton 2017 is simply a reflection of how much I love my little town.
Which is all a long and rambling and spotlight-dodging way of saying, Thank you.