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Aging library struggles to survivel
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 2 décembre 2010
Photo Marie Cicchini
Miriam Charron, past president of the NCJW, and Carol Atkin, librarian

Walking into the library of the National Council of Jewish Women is like finding an oasis in a barren land.

The Elsa and Joseph Hopmeyer Boys and Girls Library is sometimes visited by daycare groups. The first time the children came in after the renovations they were mesmerized by the colours and the books, recalls Carol Atkin, the librarian.

Six years ago, the 60-year-old library was closed for renovations. It’s a far cry from what it used to be when it moved to 6645 Darlington 40 years ago. Walls were knocked down and a bathroom was built. New shelves were bought, thanks to a donation made specifically for that purpose. Ceiling fans were added and the open reading area was made more comfortable and inviting for children and parents.

Some things haven’t changed though. There are no computer stations in sight. It’s a very small and a very personalized kind of library. There are certain things to respect for some of the religious people, like Jewish content. Atkin, in her 22nd year as librarian, keeps all the old Hardy Boys novels, Alfred Hitchcock mysteries and all the old books from a long time ago. “Some parents ask: ‘When the children pick up a book, do you look through it?’ If I think it’s inappropriate, I will not allow them to take it,” she says.

The librarian is the only employee and the treasury work is done by a volunteer. The annual membership fee is one dollar and the penalty for late returns is 10 cents because it’s not in a wealthy neighbourhood.

Miriam Charron, past president of the NCJW Montreal Section, says they have scraped by every year and managed to get by with a $30,000 budget. But this year, fundraising and the raffle haven’t been enough so far to run the library. The NCJW membership is aging and book donations are drying up as well. Money comes in very slowly, so it’s hand to mouth. Children are asking for new books. Donations are needed, and if somebody wants to buy a book, the library will add the name of the donor so that everyone will know who is helping out.

People know the Darlington Library, and Atkin knows the parents and the kids. Most of the parents used to go there as children and some are surprised to see that the same books they read as children are still on the shelves.

Today the boys and girls library serves the diverse population of Côte-des-Neiges, providing French and English books and materials suitable for various religious communities. The walls are decorated with Christmas and Jewish New Year’s greetings.

At one time it was a latchkey program. Atkin helped the kids with homework. Even now, sometimes they will call her and say “We have a project, could you get some books ready for me?” Very often the mothers will come too, picking up a handful of books for the kids to read at home.

Starting December 1 the Darlington Library will be open longer hours for the holidays.

[Marie Cicchini]

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