Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Public Library praised by Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell commended the Thunder Bay library for its role in combating racism and colonialism.

Library has transformed itself from a place to borrow books to a place to heal, Elizabeth Dowdeswell wrote

Thunder Bay Public Library opened its Indigenous Knowledge Centres on Oct. 30, 2018. (Thunder Bay Public Library)

The lieutenant governor of Ontario has praised the Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) for its work in combating racism and colonialism in the city.

Elizabeth Dowdeswell publishes Stories of Sustainability online, and Monday's story singled out the library for recognition. 

"Fifty years ago, members of the Thunder Bay Public Library would have come to their local branch to read the latest periodicals, discover a new novel, or pore over old maps and newspaper clippings," Elizabeth Dowdeswell wrote. "On a Friday in 2019, the people of Thunder Bay can walk into their public library and be seen by a nurse. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they can meet with a social worker. And on any day of the week, the public can access Indigenous Knowledge Centres."

Thunder Bay, she wrote, faces challenges such as confronting racism and addressing the deaths of young Indigenous people in the city.  But the library, Dowdeswell noted, has made itself central to the movement for a safer and more inclusive future.

"TBPL captures the strength of social cohesion and the potential of economic prosperity by creating a space that welcomes everyone," Elizabeth Dowdeswell wrote. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

She described the TBPL's action plan to implement both the recommendations from the Seven Youth Inquest into the deaths of seven Indigenous high school students in the city and the calls to action from the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission as "a strong and bold commitment and acknowledgement to decolonize library policies and services."

The library, she said, had begun to transform itself "from a place of mere lending and returning books to a place of connecting, healing, and building community."

Over the past two years, the library has undertaken a variety of initiatives, including the creation of Indigenous Knowledge Centres at its branches, which offer educational materials on Indigenous peoples in Canadian history, treaties, and residential schools legacy records. The library also has an Elders-in-Residence program, a partnership with Anishinabek Employment and Training Services, and nursing and social work services at the Brodie branch,.

"TBPL captures the strength of social cohesion and the potential of economic prosperity by creating a space that welcomes everyone," Dowdeswell wrote. "It was clear to me ... that the residents have the tools to create a bright and resilient future and that by going forward together they will get there. The library is a great place to begin this journey."