Beyond Books

Lauren Tilly’s role as a librarian at the Orangeville Public Library is as much about connecting community members with one another as about connecting them with good reads.

June 14, 2024 | | A Day in the Life

On a recent Saturday afternoon at the Orangeville Public Library’s Mill Street location, librarian Lauren Tilly greets visitors at a workshop called Get the Dirt on Climate-Friendly Gardening. Fittingly, the event is set to take place just steps from the branch’s living wall of pothos plants, installed during the historic building’s recent extensive renovation.

Although a book lover, the Grand Valley resident does not spend her days shelving tomes. As a program and research librarian, Lauren fills her workdays by connecting the community with the real currency of the library: information. As in today’s case, this often means engaging with library-goers outside of her regular workweek.

“We’re about much more than books,” she says. “Librarianship is a very exciting career and there’s something for everyone. From cataloguing books to running STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs for children, you are helping people of all ages find and navigate information, and that’s a wonderfully important role to fulfill.”

Orangeville Library
Librarian Lauren Tilly prepares for a Saturday gardening talk at the Orangeville Public Library on Mill Street. Photography by Rosemary Hasner.

Today’s celebration of sustainable practices and green thumbery features regenerative farming expert Mark Eastman of Weathered Rock Farm in Milton, and aims to inspire home gardeners to create climate-friendly gardens. To organize the event, Lauren worked closely with Kylie-Anne Grube, a climate engagement specialist with Dufferin County.

Before the gardening gloves came on today, Lauren had already put in a productive workweek of community programming. Here’s a look at how the day unfolds.

11:30 a.m. Lauren arrives at the library with her husband and five-year-old son in tow. They’ve come to help her set up the presentation table and chairs in the room where the workshop will take place. Lauren also greets guest speaker Mark and event co-lead Kylie-Anne, who have brought gifts for the attendees. The group sets up a table by the main doors and stacks bags of compost courtesy of Climate Action in Dufferin. Mark tucks a cooler of eggs, fresh from his farm, under the table. At the table upstairs where he will speak, Mark has more goodies: bunches of tulips, one of Weathered Rock Farm’s main crops, and a bin holding a cover crop and soil sample for use in his demonstration.

12 p.m. With setup complete, Lauren, Kylie-Anne and Mark gather upstairs to discuss the final details of the event, including introductions, microphone and the all-important audiovisual check. Lauren waves goodbye to her husband and son, who will find other activities to occupy themselves during the event.

12:45 p.m. Lauren heads downstairs to greet visitors. She notices some compost has spilled onto the carpet and finds a vacuum cleaner to clean it up. She finishes just in time to meet the first attendee. “It’s a good day for a gardening event,” Lauren says to the visitor. “It’s raining, so all the gardeners can actually attend!”

1 p.m. Lauren kicks off the proceedings with a brief overview and introduces Kylie-Anne. Public speaking is a significant aspect of Lauren’s role. In addition to being a librarian, she’s also a library manager, community liaison and member of the internal leadership team.

1:50 p.m. Lauren has been keeping time during the event and begins the Q&A. When it concludes, she and Kylie-Anne thank Mark and remind the guests they can take home compost, eggs and tulips.

2 p.m. Mark has been a knowledgeable and engaging speaker, so amid a buzz of curiosity and information sharing, Lauren chats with attendees and helps give out the goodies.

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  • 2:30 p.m. As the last guest wanders away, Lauren cleans up and puts away the table and chairs. It has been a busy week for events. This gardening talk was sandwiched between competitions for Battle of the Books, a longstanding annual tournament for teams of junior and intermediate students from local elementary schools.

    Every fall, Lauren reaches out to her school contacts to encourage participation, and confer on the books students will read and be quizzed on. The round-robin competition culminates in the spring with the crowning of the grand champion teams. “I have a soft spot for Battle of the Books,” says Lauren. “My first day on the job was May 1, 2014 – ten years ago – and it happened to be on competition day. That was a wonderful, if hectic, start to my career here.”

    Lauren’s tenure began right after she finished the coursework for her master of information degree in library and information sciences at the University of Toronto. Her graduation ceremony hadn’t even taken place, but the timing was right. During her summers, Lauren had helped with the reading program at the Shelburne Public Library, and decided the field was where she wanted to be, though she might not have envisioned hosting library board members at Battle of the Books and helping develop the questions put to the teams.

    Other Battle of the Books duties include co-ordinating library staff, as well as volunteers from Friends of the Orangeville Public Library, to work the events. Once Battle of the Books wraps for the year, Lauren receives feedback from the teachers – and starts the next year’s process in August.

    Working with community partners in this way is the part of her job Lauren enjoys most. “Whether it is executing a program or just starting out in the planning stages, I love the hands-on nature of this role.”

    3:30 p.m. As Lauren drives home to Grand Valley, she mentally scans the other events on her calendar. One of them is Coffee, Conversation and Books, coffee chats co-ordinated in partnership with the Grand Valley and Shelburne libraries. These outings feature local authors in coffee shops such as the Perked Pierogi. “We try to band together to advertise our various programs and we also attend each other’s events.” On the coming Monday, she will spend the day at the Southgate Public Library in Dundalk, where librarians will discuss services and programming for teens. It will be a chance to network and garner new ideas.

    6 p.m. After taking the dog for a walk, it’s dinner at home and putting her son to bed. After that, Lauren might indulge in her passion for baking or – surprise, surprise! – reading. Yes, this librarian has a varied day that doesn’t involve sitting at a desk perusing books, so bedtime is often her first opportunity to sink into a story. 

    About the Author More by Janice Quirt

    Janice Quirt is a freelance writer who lives in Orangeville.

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