By Trevor Busch
Taking over the helm of the Taber Public Library in November as manager, Heather Martin-Detka has been ensconced amidst the stacks as she gets a feel for her new position.
“I’ve really been enjoying it. I’m originally from Drumheller, went to school in Red Deer and Edmonton, was working for non-profits, decided that I wanted to get into different non-profits, and I loved information and sharing information, so library school just seemed like a natural fit. The position opened up, and I figured why not?”
Martin-Detka takes over from former library manager Diane Zelenka, who retired from the position in mid-December 2016 after serving for 22 years.
She attended the University of Alberta to learn about the ins and outs of managing a library and acquiring the skills needed in her position.
“As an undergrad, I took history. I think it came as a bit of a surprise that you couldn’t just go work in a museum with an undergrad in history. So I figured I’d go out and get some work experience, and kind of decide what I wanted to get my Masters in. I always kind of figured it would be in libraries, archives and museums,” said Martin-Detka.
“So I was working for a non-profit in Edmonton, Boys and Girls clubs up there, and that wasn’t quite how I wanted to help people. I loved information, the organization of information — I had worked at tourist information, visitor information in Drumheller for a couple summers, and that idea, of sharing good information with people, was really rewarding. So I figured, let’s do library school. So I worked at Grant MacEwen (University) during that time, as well as Strathcona Public Library, and then I was at Enbridge in a corporate library after school for a couple of years.”
Having most recently lived in Edmonton, Martin-Detka admits she doesn’t miss the cold weather in more northern latitudes, although winter 2016-2017 hasn’t exactly been t-shirt weather in southern Alberta.
“I grew up in a community around the same size, so that’s not a surprise to me. It was really lovely the first couple of weeks when I started, that’s when that news article came out saying Taber is one of the nicest towns in Canada. Everyone has been really friendly when I need them, so it’s been nice, and of course the weather is a lot nicer than Edmonton. I’ve been told this is kind of a freak winter for this area. My husband and I joke that we brought the weather from Edmonton for you.”
Some of the sights and activities to be found in this part of the province she plans to take in with her husband once the thermometer begins to rise and spring is in the air.
“I’m really excited to check out what southern Alberta has to offer. We’re really excited to check out the golf course, we’re really excited to go down to Waterton.”
Martin-Detka has always had a passion for information and organization, and a career in libraries seemed like the right fit.
“This is why I went to library school. I wanted to be a head librarian. I like the leadership, so I’m really excited to put roots in. The staff has been really welcoming and open, and the patrons I’ve been able to meet have been really nice and open.”
She hasn’t had much spare time on her hands since she took over the position in early November.
“I’ve been busy. Libraries have an annual audit that they have to do, just to show that we’re being responsible. January is audit month, and it’s also annual report month, we have to give an annual report to the government. So collection of data, collection of numbers — lots and lots of numbers.”
Libraries are working to try to shed the outdated image of being a place exclusively for quiet reflection ruled by a tyrannical spinster with horn-rimmed glasses, asserts Martin-Detka.
“Libraries are kind of that idea of ‘shush’ and a quiet space. We’re trying really hard to not be that anymore, and to not project that identity anymore. So libraries are trying really hard to become a hub for community, for social learning, for people getting together. We’ve got book clubs, we have different programs that we put on that are about social learning, spending time with other people learning about things, taking in their experiences, diversity.”
Martin-Detka is investigating the various program offerings at the library, and if there is anything she can help enhance or contribute expertise.
“The programming here is really great. I’m really excited to work with Dawn and our programming staff, just kind of building up what she’s been doing. The big thing in libraries right now is STEMs, so science-technology-engineering-math, and so she’s done a couple of programs with that. We had a science fair last year, and we have regular Lego meet-ups, so we’re excited to kind of play into that some more. The idea of ‘making’ is also very big in libraries right now, not just using technology.”