By Shelly Makrugin, Canadian Red Cross

In communities, big and small, local libraries are a meeting space for young and old and of course, a place to sign out books, DVDs and audiobooks. When High River’s library was severely damaged by the Southern Alberta Floods in 2013, it moved to a temporary location while repairs and rebuilding took place.

The library began to lend things to residents such as telescopes, guitars, binoculars, tools, tablets, and walking poles, along with reading material.It was then that unique needs started to emerge. Residents were looking to sign out more than books.
Many resident’s homes were damaged, or lost and along with that possessions like musical instruments, yoga mats, and recreational equipment were destroyed.

Responding to the community need, the High River Library, which re-opened near the end of 2015, began to lend things to residents such as telescopes, guitars, binoculars, tools, tablets, and walking poles, along with reading material.

In addition, the library has instructional toys and programming based on the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics or STEM philosophy, including books, Lego and building sets.

Library Program Coordinator Joyce Brown says for many residents who were rebuilding their lives and homes, an “awful lot of extras that make life worth living,” were not a priority and people couldn’t afford to replace them.

The Lending Library in High River offers sewing machines to those who lost theirs.Brown is an avid sewer and lost eight machines in the flood. “It is my passion. I do it every day ... there are a lot more people like me.” And while library goers cannot sign out a sewing machine, they can book time to use it, along with a serger.

Sharon Groeneveld is also a sewer. She will bring her own sewing machine to the library and sit with others while they use the machines. “It is the social aspect,” Groeneveld says, “I like to support the library.”

The machines are in the same room as the library piano, which local musicians reserve time to use. The previous grand piano, was destroyed by flood waters. The only stipulation, says Brown, is that they leave the door open so “everyone can hear and enjoy [the music]. It is beautiful.” Local piano teacher Helen Classen says “The fact that it is here feels very good.”

The lending things program is one of the projects funded by the Red Cross Community Grants Program, which addresses the recovery needs of community-serving organizations in regions affected by the Southern Alberta Floods of 2013.