senators’ statements — Public Libraries Across Canada

December 16, 2020


Honourable senators, I rise today to recognize Ms. Cyndi Stockman, the librarian at the Elk Lake Public Library in the Township of James, Ontario. In August of this year, I was working at our remote camp in Northern Ontario and needed a secure internet connection to conduct some Senate business. I scoured local municipal offices, government service centres and MPs’ offices, but all were effectively shut down. My search then narrowed to Elk Lake, which is a 45-minute drive west of Temiskaming Shores, Ontario.

Elk Lake is a small and pretty town on the Montreal River, fuelled by a sustainable forest industry, wilderness camps and lodges, and a dynamic community of 420 residents. It began as a mining boomtown with the discovery of silver in the surrounding James Township in 1906, with a population at one point exceeding 10,000 people. Interestingly, some of those mines are currently active again due to the global importance of cobalt, which is often co-located with silver deposits.

In Elk Lake, I was told, “You should talk to Cyndi.” I was fortunate to be put in touch with the local librarian, Cyndi Stockman. Ms. Stockman dropped everything, cancelled business appointments, drove over and opened up the Elk Lake Public Library for a couple of hours to allow me to conduct my work in a private and secure environment. I am tremendously grateful for Ms. Stockman’s kindness, which was, of course, also a reminder of the many benefits offered by public libraries across our great country. If there were to be any public thanks for her kind gesture, Ms. Stockman would want me to focus on these broader benefits.

Simply put, public libraries enrich us all with their access to books. Of course, they go far beyond books. While strengthening neighbourhoods and championing the cultural lives of communities, libraries are hubs that serve as centres of learning, job searches, professional development, information on health and the arts and ensuring educational opportunities are provided for everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status. The library is a community space for all of us. As you know, honourable senators, it is a sanctuary for many who want to step out of the cold, read a newspaper, connect with others or experience some quiet time in their often busy, disrupted or just-in-time lives.

No matter where we live in Canada or how we arrived here, our local library is a sanctuary for learning and for letting go — a place for people and families to enjoy, relax and spend time together. With countless resources at our fingertips, millions of books, DVDs and CDs to borrow, our public libraries are more important than ever. Thanks again to Cyndi Stockman and the thousands of librarians and staff across this country for making and sustaining our libraries as centres of learning, community building and a little bit of quiet time. Thank you.