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Hazel Park

November 12, 2013

Libraries helping libraries

Libraries assist each other locally and internationally

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

HAZEL PARK — This past summer saw the fourth deadliest rail accident in Canadian history, when a train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, went offtrack, killed more than 40 people and destroyed around 30 buildings in the downtown area July 6.

The loss of life was staggering, of course, but many other things were lost, as well. One of the buildings destroyed was the local library, and with it, original historical documents that hadn’t been scanned and are now gone forever.

“I think it’s a devastating loss to the community because it’s part of their history,” said Corrine Stocker, director of the Hazel Park Memorial Library.

Linda Sims, assistant director for HPML, agreed.

“That’s why it’s very important to scan local history files for each community,” Sims said. “Our historical commission (in Hazel Park) has been asking for a long time to get funds together to scan our documents, since we have many in the basement here, and if there was a fire or flood, they’d be lost, too.”

Feeling for the Quebec library, the staff at HPML wanted to help. They’ve been thinking up ways to bring reading back to the community in Lac-Mégantic while the library is restored and its collection reassembled.

The plan is to put together a Little Free Library box, not unlike those in Hazel Park. The self-standing, brightly painted bins are located at city parks and other key locations, and contain a selection of books people are free to take and read. People are also free to drop off books for others to check out.

The box for the Quebec library would start out with a half-dozen high-quality books requested by the library, presumably in the French language.

“We thought it would be a nice gesture to do something to help them,” Stocker said. “If something like that should happen to us, I would hope other libraries would reach out and do something to help us, as well. That’s just the way the library community is.”

HPML itself is soon to be the recipient of a huge act of kindness: A donation of 20-some computers from the Canton Public Library. They’re about four years old — the age of the newest computers at HPML — and since they were staff computers at Canton, they’re reportedly in perfect working condition.

They will be available for everyone to use at HPML. Stocker knew they had to upgrade the library’s aging fleet and was asking fellow libraries in The Library Network cooperative if they had made any large-scale computer purchases recently. That’s when the head of technology at the Canton Public Library said they were decommissioning some of their computers and HPML could have them.

In addition, Canton will be decomissioning another 80 computers next year, and they’ve already offered some of those, as well. The donations will grealty increase HPML’s computing capacity, increasing efficiency for users with faster, stronger hardware. Stocker said she still plans to find a way to fund all-new computers, but this helps in the meantime.

“This buys us a lot of time and provides assurance we will always have working computers, since if something breaks down or dies, we’ll have backups and spare parts,” Stocker said. “We have such a limited amount of space in which we can put computers, given the building is on concrete and it’s hard to do wiring. So every time one goes down, it puts a lot of stress on our users and causes waiting times to increase.”

Unfortunately, not everyone is acting in the library’s best interest. A mystery person has been stealing popular children’s DVDs — Disney-Pixar movies, in particular — or in other cases, returning them in vandalized condition. Stocker and Sims are offering a $100 reward to anyone with tips leading to the culprit or culprits.

On a more positive note, a couple families came to the library and donated replacements for four of the missing or damaged DVDs.

“It’s nice to know our patrons will come together and help the library out when it’s really in need,” Sims said.

“Someone did this horrible thing to the library, and other people were shocked and outraged, and responded by helping us,” Stocker said. “They love their library.”

The Hazel Park Memorial Library is located at 123 E. Nine Mile and can be reached by calling (248) 546-4095.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.