Jane Mckinney – keeper of the books

Jane Mckinney, the librarian at Stratford Public Library, arranges books on a shelf. Sarah Seeley photo.
Jane Mckinney, the librarian at Stratford Public Library, arranges books on a shelf. Sarah Seeley photo.
By Sarah Seeley
Oct. 26, 2013

It’s 12:45 on a Friday afternoon when Jane Mckinney unlocks the library and turns on the lights.
The Stratford Public Library finds its new home on 25 Hopeton Rd. in the old Stratford liquor store, a building twice the size of the previous location.
The new library has only been open for two weeks and Mckinney said they are still trying to get settled in.
“This place is just getting broken in.”
Mckinney and a group of 25 volunteers packed up everything from the old building and moved it down the street to the new library. She said the new location is bigger and more spacious than the old place.
“It was too small and shabby.”
When the library opens at 1 p.m., Mckinney checks the book drop for any books that were returned in her absence. She has been loaning books to the people of Stratford for almost eight years and has poured her time and resources into the beloved public library.
Mckinney got her bachelor of education with a major in English at the University of Prince Edward Island before she became a librarian.
Before coming to the small library in Stratford she worked at a number of public and school libraries in Woodstock and Saint John in New Brunswick, and Cornwall and Souris in P.E.I.
People of all ages begin flooding into the library as soon as it opens. The library offers services for everyone, from young mothers with energetic toddlers underfoot to elderly seniors looking to use the computers.
The patrons walk around and explore the new library. For some it is their first visit to the new place. Mckinney says the people are blown away with the size and layout of the building.
“Everyone loves it.”
Mckinney adjusts the posters on the bulletin board. She is responsible for organizing the numerous weekly programs the library puts on such as: book clubs, children’s story time, origami and art programs. She also plans games nights and holiday events.
“Libraries aren’t just about checking books in and out. They’re like community centres.”
Next Mckinney sorts through the books clients put on reserve and organizes them by the client’s last name so they can be picked up. Books from libraries across the Island can be put on hold and shipped to Stratford.
This task is interrupted by a line of people in front of her desk patiently waiting to check out the stacks of books in their arms. Mckinney scans the barcodes of the books and the high pitched beeps of the computer cuts through the silence of the room. She makes small talk with the regular visitors while she checks out their books.
“It’s all about the person in front of you.”
In her seven and a half years of working in the library she has gotten to know many of the people who walk through its doors.
“When I am chatting with people, I always try to say something personal yet different at the same time.”
Throughout the day, people return piles of books. Mckinney checks them all in and stacks them on a cart to be shelved. When she finds spare time, she puts them in their proper places on the bookshelves, but on busy days she doesn’t find the time.
“It’s hard to get away from the desk.”
The library has several adult and student volunteers whose responsibility is to shelf the cart of returned books. The student volunteers work diligently to reach the 100 required hours of volunteer work in order to get the Community Service Bursary. Mckinney keeps track of their hours and fills out the students’ paperwork.
Visitors often come to Mckinney for book suggestions. Her knowledge of popular books helps her make suggestions, but because of her busy schedule she doesn’t get to read as much as she wants to.
“You can’t expect us to read every genre.”
Mckinney says librarians don’t have to be big readers, but have to have some interest in them. She also said a librarian must be friendly and tolerant of all ages. Organizational skills and basic computer skills are also important.
“You have to be a person who loves to be organized.”
Mckinney says the best part of the job is talking to people and answering their questions. Nothing is more satisfying than helping a person locate a book. She also loves looking through the books that will become new additions to the library.
“Getting and seeing new books is fun.”
When the clock strikes five, Mckinney shuts off all the computers in the room and turns out the lights. Another day at the Stratford Public Library is done.