Imagine a library that has a maple tree in the centre and a vendor next to it selling pancakes with maple syrup. There are kids jumping at the chance to catch frogs that leap from a pond nearby. Meanwhile, other visitors may find themselves stimulated by holograms or just a fresh cup of coffee served upstairs in the facility that is topped with a glass atrium.
This is 13-year-old Caleb Bronn’s dream library. The avid reader is no stranger to the Trail and District Public Library. In fact, neither is his family, who was recently celebrated in a Top 25 Library Users (items out) list when middle child, 10-year-old Erin, took 21st place with 394 items borrowed in one year.
The list included 10 individuals who checked out over 500 books, audio books, DVDs or CDs from Dec. 1, 2014 to Nov. 31, 2015. Most shocking was Edgar Bailey’s extraordinary record of over 1,000 items borrowed during this time.
What kind of people use the library this much? According to Kathryn Foley, library director, the names varied from staff to Friends of the Library to the youngest, Erin, who felt “famous” when the results came in.
“These are people who have a very solid presence in our library,” said Foley, who decided to give the top users a special invite to the recent opening of “Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times: Italian Canadian Internment Experience,” which is still on display outside the library in the Trail Memorial Centre.
The Bronn family has become regular users of the Trail library. South African couple Charl and Karen Bronn have used the public space and all the resources that come with it to homeschool their three children: Caleb, Erin and Sarah, 8, since they made Trail their home four years ago.
“At the moment I want to make sure they love learning,” said Charl. “If they love learning, they’ll learn forever.”
Charl takes a blended learning approach that centres around interesting reads, which are a starting point to much discussion that sways from historical times to how it applies to nowadays. He keeps to basics when it comes to subjects like math but sways from curriculum in other areas. He encourages his kids to find what they’re passionate about, and from there directs their attention to what the library has to offer. By now, though, the Bronn kids know their way around the Trail facility, which has become much more than just a lending library.
There is anticipation on the children’s faces as they wait to talk about their favourite books, subjects and general interests.
Caleb likes “Lord of the Ring” or “Ranger’s Apprentice” because the series keeps the story going and him wanting more.
He gets lost in fantasy and adventure, much like his sisters.
Erin is enjoying her studies of the American Revolution and finds pleasure in books that carry historical themes like “Sisters in Time” or “Dear Canada” diaries. Sarah has checked out possibly every “Star Wars” book, and when she’s not thinking of epic space characters and journeys, she loves to learn math.
Charl is the primary teacher since the former IT professional has devoted his time to educating his children while his wife Karen, a doctor, does locums or studies in Canada.
“For me, it’s great fun,” said Charl. “I get to go back to school every day in a sense.”
The family has found their place in the Trail establishment with their noses in the books.
But perhaps the greatest lesson of all has been leaving their life in South Africa for a little town, Trail, that Charl found on a whim while looking at the Canadian map.
“I’ve always been adventurous and in some ways I think I kind of dragged them with me,” said Charl, who admits the first year was tough, but the staff at the library were among the locals who made them feel at home. They are greeted by name when they come in and are met with a suggested must read or a warm smile.
“I think in retrospect you see how good it is to leave your own culture and what’s familiar and come to a new place and sort of see a different perspective of how other people think,” said Karen. “In terms of education for our kids and ourselves, such a change is not necessarily something you learn in a book.”