By Andy Labdon
Wadena Library welcomed unexpected guests last week when Dwayne and Irma Barkman from Warman Sask., dropped in on their tour of 50 libraries.
“Every fifth wedding anniversary we try to do something different,” chimed Dwayne and Irma.
“We came up with the idea on our 40th and decided to canoe 40 different bodies of water. On our 45th we climbed 45 hills and Saskatchewan mountains!” Irma laughed.
“So, on our 50th we decided to visit 50 libraries,” said Dwayne, “as a way to celebrate the rural library that is such an integral part of each rural community.”
They started their tour ion 2017 and as of last week have reached the halfway point of 25 when they came to Wadena.
“Most of the libraries we have visited have had a meaning, I was born in Gravelbourg, so we went to that library,” explained Dwayne
“I come from Abbotsford BC, so we visited the library there and also the libraries in Hope and Jasper,” added Irma.
“Its great way to see the county and meet interesting people and experience the novelty of each different library,” said Dwayne. “Its also a focal point for where we want to go, we have our camper and canoes and wherever we head for we just drop into the nearest library.”
Every Library they visit both Dwayne and Irma introduce themselves and explain what they are doing. They produce a binder explaining who they are what they are doing along with comments from libraries they have visited and expressions of their experience at each library.
“Sometimes the reception is a little guarded,” admitted Dwayne, “But mostly it’s a case of ‘oh, that’s awesome come on in guys,’ or a case of, ‘oh I have heard about you.”
In the case of Wadena library, librarian Maureen Curry said, “I think it’s pretty cool!”
Which isn’t surprising as their venture caught the ears of Sheila Coles CBC Morning edition where they interviewed back in August 2017.
Once introductions are over Dwayne and Irma sit down and have a game of backgammon.
“But it isn’t all that easy to do” explains Irma.
“Some of the rural libraries are small and share space with another building, so we have played backgammon in a curling rink adjacent to the library or in a fire hall adjacent to the library,”
Irma explains “Libraries are important. When I took my degree, I only had to buy two or three books
the rest came from the library. To me that’s huge.”
“The smaller the community the important the library is in the community,” says Dwayne, “and even if the library is small it’s still big because it has the resources of the inter-library lending making every library in essence just as big as a city library.”
They both agree that every library is important and each one is individual, “We visited one library that had a 100-year-old cactus,” Irma exclaimed
“The smallest library we visited was Archerwill and the biggest the Francis Marrion in Saskatoon, and in both, all kinds of events are going on, which shows that each library is special and unique.”
In case one is keeping track, so far Irma is two backgammon games ahead of Dwayne.