New initiative from the Fredericton Public Library pairs musical instrument lending with live music performances.
Once upon a time, libraries were cold, quiet places filled with books and stereotypes. The movies and television shows of our youth taught us that librarians demanded complete silence within their space. All communication was to be done through hand gestures or whispers. No noise would be tolerated. If you so much as coughed you’d be greeted with a glare, a humiliating “ssssshhhhhhhhhhhh!” or simply asked to leave. Thankfully, those days, if they ever really existed, are long gone. Today’s libraries are community hubs. Yes, they still have novels and texts and maps, but today’s libraries – including those here in Fredericton – also offer access to computers, ebooks, audio books, graphic novels, endless research tools and valuable community programs for all ages. They even have seeds and snow shoes and since the spring of 2018, musical instruments.
“We launched the Sun Life Musical Instrument Lending Library in May 2018,” said Julia Stewart, director of the Fredericton Public Library. “Sun Life donated 150 instruments, and $140,000 to the Fredericton Public Library to add this service. And it has been going incredibly well and the instruments are flying off the shelves.”
With a standard library card, anyone can try their hand at making music by borrowing guitars, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, percussion instruments and keyboards.
“We even have an amazing accordion,” said Stewart. “We’ll continue to add more instruments as time goes on and we even hope to have a cello by the end of February to honor one of our long time board members, Trish Fanjoy, who retired this year.”
In an attempt to increase the program’s effectiveness, library staff ask anyone who borrows an instrument to fill out a simple survey, the results of which are used to guide future programming.
“From the surveys we’ve collected, we have added more books to learn, opportunities for music lessons, both private and group, more instruments and accessories including music stands, tuners, capos and slides,” said Stewart.
“We love that Fredericton loves music! I love hearing children trying out the bongos or adults testing out a guitar. Music has a way of bringing people together, just like reading does and now our library is great a doing both,” she said.
Last week, the Fredericton Public Library announced a partnership with Symphony New Brunswick that will provide those curious would-be musicians with access to performances by some of the region’s musical elite through the Symphony’s Virtuoso Series.
“Like many of our partnerships, this one fell in my lap,” said Stewart. “A board member and library lover, Judy Colson introduced the idea to me in the fall and we were able to make it happen without too much trouble. With a little brain storming from other staff members, things came together quite quickly.”
The Symphony’s Virtuoso Series is a regular part of each SNB season. Focused largely around the work of the Saint John String Quartet, the series often welcomes guest performers and themes that help showcase the variety of possibility within the classical realm.
Fredericton performances of the Symphony’s Virtuoso Series take place in McCain Hall on the St. Thomas University campus with the next performances happening January 24.
“The benefits of playing and listening to music are well measured,” said Stewart, who has committed to learning to play the baritone ukulele this year. “These benefits include stress reduction and relaxation. It is also wonderful for everyone to have the ability to try something for free they may not be able to afford to buy for themselves. For children, learning to play a musical instrument builds self-confidence, helps with development of fine motor skills and improves listening skills.
“Just like a book, folks can take out an instrument for three weeks and renew if no one is on the wait list,” she said. “Libraries are the perfect fit for musical instrument collections as we are experts in lending things, and are natural hubs for the community.”
Musical instruments are available at the Fredericton Public Libraries on Carleton Street and Fulton Ave.