This post was written by Amanda Fritz, President of the Montreal Children’s Library, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
In Montréal, one in five children live in poverty. But in three underserved communities, the Montreal Children’s Library is making a difference.
Story Time and Starlight
“Again, again, read it agaaaaaain!”
It’s a familiar request at the Montreal Children’s Library (MCL), this time it is originating from a 5 year-old in a pink jumper. Elizabeth Macdonnell, a librarian who has been with the MCL for 34 years, dutifully obliges, and launches into another rousing tale featuring Pete the Cat – who this time is on the hunt for missing cupcakes.
Elizabeth holds court above a sea of young faces at one of the Montreal Children’s Library’s branches – called ‘Vega’. Each of the MCL’s 3 branches (Antares, Vega, and Polaris) are named for navigational stars. The perfect choice, given their role in lighting up the communities they serve and the responsibility they have undertaken to nurture a love of books, learning, and literacy.
We Have 80 Years Behind Us
Since 1929, the Montreal Children’s Library – an independent, bilingual, not-for-profit organization – has been operating children’s libraries in the city’s most underserved neighbourhoods. Ones where no municipal library exists, and where families struggle with the day-to-day realities of living below the poverty line.
The Montreal Children’s Library’s mission? To develop literacy, foster imagination, and connect children and parents to their communities by equipping them with the building blocks of life-long learning.
More than just a library, the MCL offers kids:
- A wealth of interactive and educational programs, including chess, science, reading, and arts-and-crafts clubs, as well as Moms and Tots, story time, and music and theater performances;
- Their ‘first 900 days’ Mother Goose Rhyme Time Program is nationally recognized and uses songs and rhymes to foster vital pre-literacy skills at nine community sites;
- Each summer, their ‘Fun in the Sun’ festival brings six weeks of songs, stories, and activities to Montreal parks in areas teeming with newly immigrated families.
And all of this, completely free of charge.
The Loss of Starlight
Today, all of what we do is at risk as the Montreal Children’s Library announced that as of October 28th, 2016 they will be permanently closing two locations. The reason? A lack of funding. As an independent library, the MCL is responsible for funding 100 percent of its own operations. While their host municipalities provide annual grants to help, the library’s volunteer Board of Directors is tasked with making up the difference. Through a combination of special events, direct mail campaigns, grant writing, and crowdfunding appeals, our volunteers raise close to $50,000 every year to help keep the library afloat. But it’s not enough.
“We just haven’t been able to make ends meet, and that is why we need to drastically reduce operations in order to be sustainable. It’s a tragic loss for us, and for the communities that we are abandoning,” says Helen Kyne, Executive Director of the MCL.
A Constant Need – And A Brighter Future
Though Antares and Vega will be closing, the MCL’s busiest branch – Polaris – will still be there to help children in-need. Located in the borough of St-Michel, Polaris serves some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods on the Island of Montreal. There, almost half of children under six come from low income families, and one third of kids start kindergarten without the tools they need to start their academic careers on the right foot.
Paula Lebasseur, Polaris’ librarian, is committed to helping.
“At our library, we provide so much more than just books. Children are supported and told they are valuable. We give them a safe place to go after school, and the tools they need to learn and grow.”— Paula Lebasseur, Polaris’ Librarian
To learn more about the Montreal Children’s Library, or to make a donation, please visit their Charity Profile Page.