At a time when fundraising activities have been severely curtailed due to the pandemic, the Merrickville-Wolford Public Library has received a financial shot in the arm from the Merrickville-Wolford Community Fund.
A $1,500 grant from the fund supports two key services that directly benefit library users. Most of the grant – $1,070 – is earmarked to cover the library’s entire OverDrive subscription service for 2021. The remaining $430 will be used to purchase additional copies of the library’s most popular e-books.
With its OverDrive subscription, the library has been providing cardholders or users with access to a shared collection of close to 70,000 e-books and more than 16,000 e-audiobooks. With a library card and an Internet connection, library members can download and read or listen to e-books from home, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This is a huge advantage for people residing in our rural area, and it has obviously proven to be a significant benefit during the pandemic, with the various states of emergency, including social-distancing measures, and the temporary closure of the library earlier this year.
“Several months into the pandemic, we are finding that OverDrive is still being heavily used while people continue to avoid public buildings,” explained Library Chief Executive Officer, Mary Kate Laphen. Indeed, the numbers support this. Community members checked out 3,667 e-books/e-audiobooks from March to September 2020. This is a thirty per cent increase over the same period last year.
“OverDrive has also proven to be a valuable service for people with vision problems, because the format allows readers to increase the size of the font on any book, making it easier to read,” added Ms. Laphen.
When the library first subscribed to OverDrive, the volunteer fund-raising organization, Friends of the Merrickville Library, stepped up to provide the funding, noted Ms. Laphen. It has continued to fund the service over the years. Ironically, at a time when the service is increasing in relevance and use, the Friends’ ability to continue with its 2020 fund-raising activities has been sharply curtailed. Unfortunately, the outlook for the group’s fundraising activity for 2021 remains unclear, again due to the pandemic. The grant from the Merrickville-Wolford Community Fund, therefore, serves to bridge this gap out of respect for the valuable role Friends of the Merrickville Library has had, and will continue to have, in our community.
“This is why the Merrickville-Wolford Community Fund exists,” explained fund representative, Dan Black. “The grant illustrates how the fund is being used to support a valuable and popular service in our community, occurring at a crucial time when an injection of financial support for OverDrive is most definitely needed. All of us, too, I think, are very proud of our local library, especially the way it has remained current with services that benefit our rural population.”
Fund representative, Ann Martin echoed that view. “The grant reflects our goal of investing in community-identified initiatives that result in a healthy, vibrant community. We are pleased to be able to help the library provide this valuable on-line service, especially at a crucial time.”
While noting the library’s need to obtain more copies of popular fiction and non-fiction e-books, Ms. Laphen said this has been an ongoing challenge. “Because this is a shared collection, there can be long wait times. Having additional copies specifically for our members would significantly ease this situation.”
The Merrickville-Wolford Community Fund was formally established as a volunteer effort in 2017 by Ms. Martin and Mr. Black. It contributes to the local community through a grant process that focuses on specific needs. The fund, which is administered through the expertise and resources of the Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF), is one of dozens of community funds across Canada. It provides an opportunity for citizens to give back to their community through an endowment or donation. These generous offerings are pooled into an interest-earning account administered by the OCF, and, at the same time, designated for local charitable causes through the Merrickville-Wolford Community Fund. Led by Ann Martin and Dan Black, the local fund, which is independent of the Corporation of the Village of Merrickville-Wolford, encourages and welcomes donations and identifies charitable causes in need of timely financial assistance.