New Cheticamp branch joins ECRL family

April 2, 2023

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of a library,” reflected the great Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges. Borges was a librarian himself and it says a great deal that a man who lived much of his life inside a library would hope that he might spend his afterlife in one as well.

Libraries invite visitors to browse and borrow freely from their holdings, to sit and read, to pause, to relax. In other words, they are a kind of paradise. The people of Cheticamp have long known this and for years have been working to bring a library to their community. That work has finally paid off.

On February 1, the Cheticamp branch of the Eastern Counties Regional Library (ECRL) opened its doors to the public. Occupying the bottom level of 15359 Cabot Trail, it can be entered from a waterfront boardwalk. Its windows frame a beautiful view of Cheticamp Island across the harbour.

Staffed by Francis LeBlanc of Cheticamp and Oisín Curran of South West Margaree, both of whom are fluent in French and English, the library is open from 10 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 6 pm, Wednesday through Saturday.

The French/English bilingual collection reflects the community it serves and is divided into children’s, junior, young adult, and adult sections, with both fiction and non-fiction volumes. As well, there are DVDs in multiple categories and an extensive collection of graphic novels. The library provides free wifi and has three publicly available computers, one of which is specifically set up for accessibility.

Beyond the books and films housed at the Cheticamp Library, membership in the ECRL system gives users access to nearly 1,000,000 items held at over 60 public library branches across the province.

It’s early days yet and the library will continue to expand its collection and improve its facilities. Laura Emery, ECRL’s chief executive officer, believes the branch is full of potential.

“Libraries grow in response to their communities,” she said. “This is an evolving space.”

“There was a great demand for it,” said Claude Poirier, the municipal councillor representing Cheticamp. “It came about with a lot of determination and hard work on the part of the previous councillor, myself and many others. The membership is going strong.”

That membership has been reacting enthusiastically to the new library since it’s opening. “Finally,” commented Louise Delisle during a recent afternoon visit, “a French language library.”

“It’s brilliant!” said James Summerfield as he signed up for an ECRL membership.

And Clive Doucet observed that, “Every village should have a library.”

Jorge Luis Borges would certainly agree.

ECRL is one of nine regional public library systems in Nova Scotia. Since 1969, ECRL has provided public library service to the counties of Inverness, Richmond and Guysborough, which represents the largest geographic area of any public library system in the province.

With the opening of the Cheticamp location, ECRL serves more than 30,000 people, operating nine branches, which also include Canso, Guysborough, Mabou, Margaree Forks, Petit-de-Grat, Port Hawkesbury, Sherbrooke, and St. Peter’s. It also offers full library service from its regional offices in Mulgrave.

ECRL features Atlantic Canada’s first “open library” offering members pin code access to the Guysborough branch during extended hours. It also operates a self-serve library kiosk at the Port Hawkesbury branch.

Members of ECRL also have access to items located at seven other regional libraries throughout the province. Through a program launched in April of last year, ECRL users can place holds on and borrow items from the other library systems, the same way they would with items in ECRL’s own collection.

ECRL is funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage (approximately 74%), by partner municipalities (approximately 23%), and by its own fundraising activities (approximately 3%). It has a board of directors who govern the library in accordance with the Nova Scotia Libraries Act, which regulates regional library service in the province.