When Mary Zazelenchuk arrived in Stettler from Halifax a year ago this past September, she wasn’t sure what to expect of the town.
“No place is exactly as you expect,” said Stettler’s library manager.
“I have been enjoying my time here — I appreciate how much is going on, there are a lot of community events.”
Raised in St. Andrews, N.B. — a small town of 1,800 on the Bay of Fundy — Zazelenchuk said she spent a lot of time at the library as a kid, and still has fond memories of that time.
She has, however, been away from small-town life for some time, living in Vancouver and a 10-year stint in Toronto before moving to Halifax.
It seems Stettler appeals to the relatively new librarian.
“I live close to work and enjoy the community garden — that contributes to quality of life,” she said.
“I liked spending the summer here — it’s so beautiful.”
Zazelenchuk described an early fall drive to Red Deer as having “a giant steel blue sky and fields of gold highlighted by the sun from behind — it was breathtaking.”
She has met many Stettler-area people who came to the library over the past year.
“The patrons are great,” she said. “They have good ideas and suggestions and are friendly, pleasant people.”
Since Zazelenchuk’s arrival, the library has seen record-breaking attendance during the summer months of almost 20,000 visits.
“It was a busy library when I came. I expected it would be a challenge to maintain that.”
“I didn’t expect the increase, but it gives a feeling of satisfaction.”
The busy Stettler library, with its many scheduled programs and events, is now often referred to as the “activity centre” — with something extra going on most days.
New activities and services are constantly being added. Chicks with Sticks — a knitting club — meets regularly at the library.
Every Tuesday is “Homework Helpers” and middle school coaching for math and science.
The “Something Cool after School” program goes every Wednesday.
Every Thursday is high school coaching for math and science.
November is full of activities with the three book clubs — Brain Candy, Reader’s Circle and Spinecrackers all meeting.
A major November event is the annual book sale last weekend. The event features more than 1,000 books for sale.
“We try to change it up and base new programs on what’s been successful,” Zazelenchuk said.
“Libraries should be seen as a fun place where new things are possible — places to extend imaginative reach.
“Ideally, people feel relaxed and comfortable and view the library as a social and learning space.”
The library offers technical assistance to seniors and also will assist anyone with downloading eBooks and eAudio and have eReaders for loan.
Through the Parkland Regional Library, the Stettler library offers computer access to data bases, something that high school students might find useful for research.
The Stettler library also uses all the social media networks to share information — Facebook, Twitter, pinterest and the webpage. Zazelenchuk said she’s looking forward to the future expansion plans for the library.
“We could use a “quiet space” area — some events are noisier and there’s a need to segregate that, especially for people writing tests.
“Moving the stairway to the middle will make the library more visible.”
She also welcomes the seniors’ centre moving to the Stettler Recreation Centre.
“It will be exciting,” she said. “We can co-ordinate events together and there will be more traffic on the upper level.”
The Heartland Youth Centre also has a program at the library, which Zazelenchuk sees as positive.
“The more we can cooperate with other agencies, the better it is.”
“I would like to see everyone in Stettler and the surrounding area use the library,” Zazelenchuk said. “Everyone is welcome. We are open to new programs and are a place for groups to meet.”