Closer to home: back to the neighbourhood library

Editor’s note: Once a week here at Transforming Edmonton we’ve been sharing some of our favourite places in the city. The pandemic has shortened the travel horizon for many. And that’s okay, because there are plenty of gems in different parts of our city that are worth a visit. Each week a City of Edmonton team member gives you a story about a fave spot closer to home. This is Glenn Kubish’s view.

Earlier this week, and for the first time in a long time, I checked out my neighbourhood library. It felt good. 

Here’s how the story unfolded. 

For years I had been looking for a particular book that I’ve wanted to read since my student days when I wrote an essay on it without having read it. Off and on over the years, I would check local and faraway stores, but no luck. A couple of weeks ago, a voice from the past whispered, “How about the library?”

Growing up in the northeast end, I would take the bus to the Highlands Library on 118 Avenue. That was our branch. The N13 or N14 was the bus, if I remember right. It’s been about a hundred years. What I can’t forget is how I felt walking into that branch.  

Highlands has a new look now, but this is what it looked like back in the day.

It was a thrill. All the books with all the adventures inside. Walls of books with coded call numbers. They even had board games at Highlands. We played Battleship. A-1. That’s a hit!

Looking back, it was my first dawning of what it means to have access to a common good. And, so, I like to think it was the ghost of a librarian from those days who whispered “how about the library?” 

Because I found the book by searching the Edmonton Public Library’s online catalogue. I placed a hold on it. A few days later I got an email telling me it was ready to be picked up at the Jasper Place branch. I pedalled my bike there. It took seven minutes.

The Edmonton Public Library – Jasper Place Branch is near 90 Avenue and 156 Street.

It’s a cool looking place. The roof reminds me of snow drifts. There are a lot of neat looking neighbourhood libraries in Edmonton. It’s not just the new, big one downtown. That feels kinda Edmonton to me. 

A librarian smiled and said hello as I walked in and pointed me to the shelf full of books on hold. I wasn’t alone, as it appeared. That felt good, too. I scanned the shelves and zeroed in on my book. KRUE…KRUG…KUBI…That’s a hit!

I removed “my” book, and, with it, a sense of gratitude that we have neighbourhood libraries that connect us to the world. 

I pedalled back through our neighbourhood, waved hello to some people I didn’t know along the way, got home and, like I did in 1974, dug in. 

It’s due on December 6, for the next reader.