QLNB's Storytent crew spent a wonderful Saturday out in St. Martins, a small coast side community an hour's drive from Saint John. They were holding their third annual Showcase St. Martins to promote and draw people into the village. We were invited to bring the Storytent in support of their Book Town initiative.
We were on hand for four hours at the 4 Seasons Complex, during which time we met families and read to, or provided a reading opportunity for, kids. (We were just slightly less popular than the brand new fire engine placed proudly on display out front.)
We also met some of their literacy and library volunteers. Our host, Jackie Bartlett, was a driving force behind Book Town; creating a shop focusing on mystery novels above her tea room. A same-minded campground owner began stocking camping and adventure books. A local artist hosted books on arts and crafts. In 2007, the New Brunswick Legislature proclaimed St. Martins "New Brunswick's official Book town." By now, there are about a dozen booksellers in the village. But our host told us their dream is to see free books available "in every little inn and shop" in St. Martins.
Later, we met Betty, the town's chief volunteer librarian. It was her father who founded the Quaco Historical & Library Society in 1971 along with a small group of other residents.
[They] agreed that their Society should promote an interest in the history of the Quaco-St. Martins area in New Brunswick and to create a museum and archives to preserve its artifacts and documents. They also decided to establish a general literature library to serve their community.The library itself they describe as "a light-hearted, volunteer-run community library with an amazing selection of popular and classic novels, non-fiction titles and reference works. We are especially proud of our children’s section. New books and the classics get equal shelf space."
But Betty's most proud of something else. One day, she told us, someone said to her, "Oh Betty, you have made this place where people can come and get together and talk."
We met other people, including local children's author Sara O'Leary (who dropped by before heading off to volunteer duties at the library), and the St. Martins & District Chamber of Commerce president, Kathy Miller-Zinn. All in all, it was a wonderful day, and we were equally impressed by the warm welcome we received and the residents' obvious commitment to community literacy.