Merritt Gibson Library Annual Book, Plant, and Bake Sale
By Emily Leeson
Spring has sprung, and out Canning way the gardens are starting to pop up, the cottagers are arriving, and as they do every spring, the dedicated volunteers at the Merritt Gibson Memorial Library are gearing up for their annual Annual Book, Plant, and Bake Sale on May 19.
Back in the early nineties, around this time of year, the residents of Canning were busy fundraising with a big plan in mind: A new, volunteer-run library. Richard Matheson, now of Country Real Estate, was at that time a new transplant to the area with his wife Pam and their two young kids. Looking to make some friends and get involved, he joined the library committee and brought along with him some key experience. His business at the time was in advertising and he approached the fundraiser much like his work. “It was very similar to running an advertising campaign,” he recalls. He organized an elaborate raffle with $100 tickets sold on the grand prize of a new car (a Honda Del Sol), along with as many other prizes as the local library committee could get their hands on. Their goal was $33,000 to buy the old telephone building at 9806 Main Street in Canning. At the time it was owned by Irving Oil, and the library committee used existing funds for a down payment but the balance would come from the fundraising efforts.
By Richard’s estimate, it only took three or four months to make it happen. The 400 raffle tickets they sold, plus a huge auction, brought in over $50,000 for the project. They were able to purchase the building, and, with further fundraising and community support, refurbish the space and stock the shelves with books. “The whole community was behind it,” remembers Richard. “We did one weekend project where everyone donated paint and ladders and came out to paint the whole building over one weekend.”
Much of the original shelving, and over 2000 books, came from the Canadian Forces Base in Cornwallis as it closed. Further books came from across the country, and they still stream in. As the only volunteer-run library in NS that they know of, the Canning Library is entirely dependent on community support.
“We buy some if we have the funds, maybe two or three a year. The rest are donated,” says Lynda Lockyer. Lynda has been a dedicated volunteer with the library for just about 15 years now. Along with Aleta Re and Lis van Berkel, who have worked tirelessly to put on regular fundraisers, presentations, and events, Lynda and the other volunteers have been creating and preserving a gem of community life.
In 2015, the library was renamed the Merritt Gibson Memorial Library. Gibson had been founding member of the Canning Library & Heritage Association, as well as the Blomidon Naturalists Society. He’d also served on the Village of Canning Commission for 33 years, including 17 as chair. On May 9 of 2015, the new library sign was unveiled by Merritt’s wife Wilma.
The library continues to be an important part of village life. Now, with over 2000 members, and with the free membership growing every year, the library is still in need of donations towards its day-to-day operating expenses. Open every Tuesday and Thursday 2:00pm to 5:00pm, Fridays 5:00 to 7:00pm, and Saturdays 10:00am to 1:00pm, the library gets significantly busier during the summer months.
“We get people from farther afield,” says Lynda, “From on the mountain, Centreville, Sheffield Mills, Kingsport for sure, a lot of the cottagers come here.”
The library’s event calendar also benefits from the local and seasonal population. “We have quite a few authors who are cottagers in the area so they come and do book readings for us and donate books — which is always wonderful,” Lynda says, “We’ve had Linda Moore, Ami McKay, and Christy Ann Conlin.”
Those are just a few of the folks who’ve been happy to spend an evening or an afternoon sharing their stories in the cozy library space. Award-winning horticulturist Wayne Ward recently spoke about the world famous Chelsea Flower Show, and hosted a Q&A about all things lilies and orchids. Carol Goodwin from Beneath the Boughs: Woodlands and Unusual Plants is booked for a talk on Saturday, May 5. Carol is a talented potter and sculptor, and specializes in the culture of woodlands and unusual plants for the gardener looking for something out of the ordinary.
And of course, making the trip to the library for just the books is, of course, well worth the visit. It is a little bit like stepping back in time, in the most pleasant way possible. There’s no scanning barcodes or checking books out with your smartphone. No self-check-out and receipt print-out. The books get checked-out the old fashioned way, with due date cards and rubber stamps. Inside the library, there are plenty of places to quietly read, and the selection of books is really a collection curated by the community, evolving as community members drop off new donations — often in piles of eight or ten books at a time. In 2016, the library received $5,000 from Kings County through the Race Relations and Anti-Discrimination Committee to establish a Diversity Bookshelf. Those books span various perspectives including African Canadian, LGBTQ, and First Nations experiences.
The volunteers try to ask for books five years old or younger, hoping to keep the collection fresh — old favourites though are certainly treasured. “We do have a really good local interest section, some are real collector’s items,” says Lynda.
Keeping all this happening is a continual effort, but even the fundraisers are focused on community bonding, education, and good times. The Annual Book, Plant, and Bake Sale coming up is naturally much more than just a book, plant and bake sale. There’s also a BBQ on offer, with vegan choices on hand, and everything from tomatoes to hibiscus for sale, including Wayne Ward’s lilies. There will be perennials from Oakview Farms, and further donations for sale from Beneath the Boughs, Moon Tide Farms, Longspell Point Farm, Tap Root Farms, Hennigar’s Farm Market, and Blomidon Nurseries. The Pereaux Winds Ensemble will provide music, and local palm and tea leaf reader extraordinaire Marilyn Rand will be offering readings for a donation to the library fund-raising effort. Kids can look forward to temporary tattoos and fingernail painting on top of all that.
This little library is one big reason why rural Nova Scotia is a wonderful place to live, and the chance to support it isn’t to be missed.
The Annual Book, Plant, and Bake Sale
The Merritt Gibson Memorial Library
9806 Main, Canning, NS
May 19, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Also: BBQ, Local plant experts on hand, kids activities