Tucked away at the end of Main Street next to the Rideau River in Merrickville stands the quaint little cottage that houses the Merrickville Public Library.
Donated in 2008 by the Lions Club the house is full of rows of books as wells as movies, games and computer stations and decorated by children and community art pieces. The most important fixture of the library is not the rows of books or the child-made dragon that hangs from the ceiling, it’s the passionate and hardworking Mary Kate Laphen, the longtime CEO and Librarian of the Merrickville Public Library.
Originally from Smith Falls, Mary Kate went to the University of Toronto to obtain her Masters degree in library science. She didn’t always know she wanted to work in a public library, but after getting a job in one she realized how much she enjoyed it. In 1994 she got the job as the librarian and CEO in Merrickville and has lived here ever since.
Over her 21 years as the librarian the library has changed a lot. “When I started there wasn’t even any computers in the library. There was a photocopier, a rotary dial phone and an electronic typriter and that was the extent of the technology,” she says. With her hard work and commitment to keeping things current the library now has eight public use computers (and one for the little kids), free wifi, a fully functioning website and online catalogue and a large collection of e-books.
While a library will always be centered around books it is also about the help, services, information and programs it offers. “We’re a recreational place where you don’t have to sweat,” says Mary Kate. “A playground for your mind.”
The library offers many programs and services for grown-ups and kids alike. Mary Kate runs story time every Friday morning for young children as well as a program called “Off The Shelf” for the adults where a different person reads an excerpt from a short story or book every month. They also have a large meeting room that is available for any community group to use. Once a month Mary Kate shows movies, that are projected onto the wall creating a big screen, movie theatre-like feel.
Although the library can always come up with new programming Mary Kate says they would like to hear from the community about what they want. “We’re really interested in getting more community lead programming in the library,” she says. “We’re all about the community hub.”
Mary Kate is truly a jack of all trades when it comes to running the library. She creates and runs programming, orders and shelves books, looks after the finances and mans the front desk. She is the CEO and she takes out the garbage. “It never gets boring,” she says, smiling. A year and a half ago the library was able to hire a part-time person which helped them expand their hours.
Her favourite part about her multifaceted job is helping people find the information they need or a book that they will enjoy reading. “ You’re making people’s lives better in small ways,” she says. “What’s not to love about a job like that?”
Mary Kate’s passion for what she does comes out in every aspect of the Library. It is small, vibrant and full of life. Just like her.
If you have any questions, feedback or ideas for programming feel free to give Mary Kate a call at 613-269-3326 or visit the library’s website.