When I was young, I waited in anticipation to go to the library every week. I would double and triple check that I had my library card. I would bag up all my books to go back and excitedly imagine what magic I was going to find when I got there. It was a wonderful place. Every book lead to a new adventure and I loved that I lived within biking distance of the main branch at Queen’s Square in Cambridge, Ontario (now called the Idea Exchange.)
As an adult, I find the library can still be the highlight of my week but for very different reasons. I’m discovering that there is more to the library than just hard covers and soft covers. As much as I hated the Library and Gallery’s decision to change their name to the Idea Exchange, I’ve come to understand just how fitting the name actually is.
Baby and Me
At the urging of a good friend, I signed up my daughter to be part of one of the many kids programs titled Baby and Me with the Idea Exchange back in September. After exploring all the children’s areas, I found the Hespeler location was the most inspiring and so chose this as the location for our class. With lots of space to crawl around, bright windows letting in lots of natural light and fun colours in the furniture and racks, it truly is a great place to bring your kids.
The staff running the program was top notch. Always smiling and willing to keep things flowing with songs and stories and play. Every week was a new adventure and I loved having the ability to check out and read books to my daughter on days when not at the program.
The fall and the spring programs with the library are part of Baby Connections. This meant we were given either a toy or book to take home and keep every single week. Score!
The program was so much fun for Adelaide and it allowed me as a new mom to meet other parents of little ones and share in our milestones. It even inspired me to sign up for the winter session at Cambridge’s main branch at Queen’s Square. The staff were just as fun and engaging and it truly was nice being able to see Adelaide interact with other kids.
Another added bonus – all of the Baby and Me programs are completely free! How amazing is that?
It’s no secret that I love researching family history as you can see by the History of Me section in this blog. The Idea Exchange has lots of microfiche reels and copies of census records as well as many other books and reference material to keep your brain hunting. Although it is true that the Kitchener Library system has more information on the regional history, I have still had tremendous success hunting through images of the old Galt Reporter.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had since becoming an adult is writer’s block. I’ve gotten stuck on an idea or a chain of thought and find myself unable to keep moving forward. A few years ago I saw a tiny little blurb in the Cambridge Times about a Writer’s Workshop at the Clemens Mill Branch of the Idea Exchange on a Saturday morning. As the workshop was later that day, I immediately called the library to see if they still had openings. Lucky for me, the instructor had just walked in the door and said I should come on down. Little did I know that by going to that workshop it would inspire and change my life.
This weekend I completed my third workshop with Larry Brown. His workshop style of providing writing prompts and just enough time to get your mind engaged but not long enough to get comfortable or lost in thought always inspires me. I find myself walking out of his classes with many ideas for stories and inspiration to keep on writing. It sound so simple when he says “If you write a little every day for the next year, by this time next year you’ll have quite a bit written.” Even if life gets in the way and I don’t do it, his words are still with me when I next sit down at the keyboard.
Larry’s workshops are always popular, and will always garner a group that comes to each one, excited and happy to engage in the writing process. Having a hobby that is so solitary, there is something so wonderful about sitting in a room with other writers. And another bonus – this was also a FREE program!
Location, Location, Location!
An aspect about the Idea Exchange that I have enjoyed is that each branch is different. Each has it’s own unique style and I love that they are located in many different areas of Cambridge. They’ve done a great job of giving people in this town a place to be.
The staff behind the counter is smiling and not sternly shushing you as they did in days of our youth. There are computers available at all the branches for research, or even to play games and connect with the outside world. The Idea Exchange locations are all wifi enabled so you can use your smartphone, laptops or tablets to connect as well.
Special events and programs
The Idea Exchange has done a lot in recent years to really engage with the community. They have partnered with organizations to bring in speaking series, gallery works, workshops and special programming during holidays and over March Break. In the past I’ve participated in knitting circles, craft days and gallery showings. It’s not just about the books anymore. It’s truly a place for people to come and get inspired.
The future of the Idea Exchange
Having gone to a few of the planning meetings for the newest branch to be located in the Old Post Office on Water Street in Cambridge, I’m incredibly excited about all that they are going to be able to offer.
- Makers space where children of all ages can explore their imaginations and build and create things.
- A children’s area that will allow them to play and explore and participate in programs which book up completely in all the other locations.
- A spot where you can download books or do research while sipping on a coffee overlooking the river.
- I love that the basement will not only have space for presentations and speaking series but will have recording studios for all those in town that can’t afford to rent space elsewhere.
This new Idea Exchange will be bringing Cambridge into the new age of libraries and I love that it is going to give my daughter a space to grow up and be proud to be a part of. It truly is a meeting of old and new, in the architecture and the awesome programming being planned.
I would like to mention that no one is paying me to write this post. I promote the Idea Exchange because I truly believe in all the work that they do and where they are going in the future. Hopefully you can visit your local branch soon to find out for yourself just how wonderful the library can be.
© Content and Images by Corina Harris, 2016
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