Beyond the books: P.E.I. libraries lending snowshoes

Some P.E.I. libraries have begun lending out snowshoes — all you need is your library card.

Libraries promoting healthy bodies as well as healthy minds

Purchasing the 28 pairs of snowshoes cost the province $2,800, but it won't affect the book budget, says Grace Dawson. (Troy Wayrynen/The Associated Press)

Islanders can now get a side helping of fitness when they borrow books — some P.E.I. libraries have begun lending out snowshoes. 

The snowshoe lending program is a new pilot project that has purchased four pairs of different-sized snowshoes for each of seven libraries including Summerside, Charlottetown, Stratford, Montague, Kensington, Cornwall and the French library at the Carrefour de l'Isle St. Jean in Charlottetown. 

"One of the things we're trying to focus on as a library system in general is promoting that link between physical fitness and mental fitness," said Grace Dawson, regional librarian with P.E.I. Public Library Service.

"And snowshoes seem to be a great way to encourage people to go out on the Island and enjoy the winter and get active." 

'I think it's a great way to go out there and explore the beauty of the Island,' says Dawson. (PEI Winter Woodlot Tour/Facebook )

All people need is their library card. There are no advance reservations or holds, to increase access to the snowshoes. 

"In order to have mental health, you need to focus on keeping your body healthy as well," she said. "We hope this program will help Islanders and increase healthy living."

'Non-traditional materials' 

The libraries borrowed the idea itself. 

"There's a lot of libraries across Canada that are already doing projects like this, focusing on lending non-traditional materials," she said. Those include tools, sewing machines and fitness facility passes.

There's growing interest in snowshoeing for recreation on P.E.I. Charlottetown hotels have a new program this winter for patrons to borrow snowshoes for free, and the City of Charlottetown and Go!PEI frequently offer free try-snowshoeing events. 

Purchasing the 28 pairs of snowshoes cost the province $2,800. The money comes from its budget to buy books and other library materials, but Dawson said it won't affect their substantial book budget.

The popularity of the program will be evaluated at the end of the season to see if it should be offered by other P.E.I. libraries. 

'Opportunity to try them out'

"It's kind of nice to give people an opportunity to try them out before they invest the money themselves," Dawson said. 

Denise Faccini Bowman checks out snowshoes at Montague Rotary Library last week. (Submitted by PEI Public Library Service )

This isn't the first time P.E.I. libraries have branched out — last summer, they loaned out museum passes, which Dawson said were popular.

P.E.I. libraries may invest in other non-traditional items to lend in the future.

"We always try to listen to the public and what they're interested in, and what there's a need for," Dawson said.

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a bachelor of journalism (honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email