Thursday, 26 November 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Connecting beyond the books at our local libraries

A passion for people is what brought Shana Allan back into the library service after a 20-year absence.

Thames-Coromandel District Council’s new Community Engagement Librarian is relishing her new position which goes far beyond what’s on the shelves and looks to realise the potential for the three Thames-Coromandel District Libraries to expand their role within the communities they serve. “It’s about so much more than books, we see our libraries as community hubs, places where people can meet and connect,” Shana says.

The COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year, just as Shana was coming on board, shone a particular spotlight on just how much people valued the connection libraries provide. “Even the volunteers who come and help at the library were saying how much they missed it and it is not necessarily about the work so much as the opportunity to meet people,” Shana says.

An example of this is the delivery service for housebound residents in Thames, which Shana is hoping can also be rolled out in Tairua and Mercury Bay. “So if people cannot get to the library for whatever reason, the volunteers will collect and drop off their books for them,” she says. “Of course, they are delighted to get their books but it inevitably involves a chat and often a cup of tea. It’s a social interaction that otherwise may not have happened.”

Another service that Shana runs is the Need a Nerd workshops which help locals get to grips with their IT challenges. Demand has soared as a result of COVID-19 with community volunteers being brought in to work through the waiting lists. “They are not classes as such, they are one-on-one sessions so we can help people with whatever their specific needs are and that can vary quite a lot,” Shana says. “We saw a huge increase in the amount of businesses operating online as a result of the lockdown and that is not going to change. So people who may not have previously engaged a great deal online are now looking to catch up.” Building on the success of the programme in Thames, a monthly session has recently been started in Tairua while a programme in Mercury Bay is also imminent once the full line-up of volunteers has been put in place.

Re-joining the TCDC library team has been a homecoming of sorts for Shana who describes her four-year stint as Children’s Librarian in Thames as her first adult job. “Since then I’ve done lots of other things,” she says. “I’ve been an outdoor educator, a tax administrator and more recently an asset manager for Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki. I’m finding I’m able to bring things I’ve learned from all those positions into this role, for example, showing people how to access their tax information online through the My IR website.”

Shana has also travelled extensively during a four-year period based in the UK. Having first moved to Thames as a teenager, she is now enjoying raising daughter Ella on the Coromandel along with husband Calvin and embracing the outdoor lifestyle the area offers. “We have a bit of a lifestyle block with lots of animals and I also love gardening,” she says.

Shana’s down time also includes tramping and more recently some social netball. “Of course, curling up on a rainy day with a good book is also one of my favourite things,” she says.
Back on the work front, developing the concept and the materials for the libraries’ upcoming Summer Reading Challenge has been a priority. “I really like this idea because it encourages people to try something that is new to them which I think is always a fun thing to do,” Shana says. “I feel lucky to be working with a really great team who all have such great ideas and a real passion for what they do. It’s been lovely meeting so many great people from the Coromandel and I’m excited about the possibilities going forward.”

Pictured: Thames-Coromandel’s Community Engagement Librarian, Shana Allan, with her daughter, Ella.

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