Your library visit is overdue Come for the books, stay for the sewing, podcasting tips, recording facilities, movie streaming and more

February is I Love to Read Month, which always seems like a logical time to show your local library a little love.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/02/2019 (1438 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

February is I Love to Read Month, which always seems like a logical time to show your local library a little love.

These days, however, it might be just as logical to laud public libraries during I Love to Sew Month, if such a thing exists. Or I Love to Stream Movies Month. Or even I Love to Make Things With 3D Printers Month.

Modern libraries have expanded far beyond books to include programs and services that run the gamut from robotics workshops to Ojibwe language classes — all free of charge with your library card.

These days, Winnipeg libraries are about more than books, says Danielle Pilon, head of reader services. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

On a recent busy Friday afternoon at the Millennium Library downtown, the study carrels lining the stairs are filled with students highlighting textbooks or writing essays on laptops. Though they’re not reading library books or using the facility’s computers, just making the most of the quiet atmosphere, Danielle Pilon, head of reader services at Winnipeg Public Library, says, “To me, that is using our services.

“It’s kind of a cliché these days to talk about the library as the living room of the community, but in a lot of ways, it is. A public library is one of the few places where you don’t have to buy something to come in. You don’t have to have a membership to come in the doors.”

Here are five amenities you might not know you can access via your local library.

Kanopy: This streaming service got a lot of buzz when it launched in Winnipeg last year, but a reminder about this marvellous motherlode of movies — which the New York Times called “a garden of cinematic delights” and Forbes said contains “one of the most unique and compelling film collections in the world” — is in order.

The Oscar-nominated animated short film Weekends is available at (Trevor Jimenez / The Canadian Press files)

Simply enter your library location and card information at and the whole catalogue of more than 30,000 films (limit of five a month, with three days to watch your selection) is at your disposal, with no ads or fees.

The selection is truly staggering, from such hard-to-find Oscar picks as Weekends, one of this year’s nominated animated shorts, and nominated documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening, to recent prestige mainstream fare, such as Brooklyn and Boyhood, to cinematic classics, including Modern Times, His Girl Friday and the original A Star Is Born. There’s a plethora of independent and world cinema in every genre, educational and instructional videos, short films and television series from around the world,

Kanopy can be accessed from devices and platforms that include Roku, Chromecast, AppleTV, iOS and Android.

The ideaMILL: This glassed-in area on the third floor of the Millennium Library is probably the most overtly impressive new feature of the Winnipeg Public Library, in a bells-and-whistles way.

One of two WhisperRoom Sound Booths with microphones and audio programs featuring multi-track capabilities in the ideaMILL. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

It’s what’s known as a makerspace — a space where patrons are encouraged to explore their creative sides, whether they’re performers, crafters, designers or tinkerers.

There are two sound-recording booths outfitted with tested-quality microphones and audio programs with multi-track capabilities (though performers can bring their own mics and laptop). The ideaMILL also has computers offering a variety of software options to edit recordings.

Did you know?

Your library card gives you access to 1.4 million items to borrow, plus an array of programs and services. Your card can be used at any of Winnipeg’s 20 branches (though St. John’s and Cornish locations are closed for renovations until later in 2019 and 2020, respectively) and online to access e-books, e-magazines and e-newspapers, as well as streaming music and movies.

Your library card gives you access to 1.4 million items to borrow, plus an array of programs and services. Your card can be used at any of Winnipeg’s 20 branches (though St. John’s and Cornish locations are closed for renovations until later in 2019 and 2020, respectively) and online to access e-books, e-magazines and e-newspapers, as well as streaming music and movies.

All branches feature computers for public use (internet access, word processing, printing), free WiFi, charging stations, meeting or study spaces, self-service hold pickups and after-hours return chutes.

The Millennium Library averages more than 2,500 visitors a day, almost one million a year.

The Winnipeg Public Library offers more than 4,000 free programs and workshops every year for all ages, including story times, book clubs, lectures, computer classes and more. Register online at

The library subscribes to more than 40 online databases including magazines, car-repair instructions and language resources. The digital resources are accessible with your library card and an internet connection.

The newly renovated, fully accessible Transcona branch at 1 Transcona Blvd., opens its doors at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 7, featuring increased parking, a family literacy playground, improved study areas and an outdoor reading area.

The Time to Read podcast will be celebrating its anniversary with a live show at the Good Will Social Club on March 26 at 7:30 p.m., called But I Don’t Wanna Grow Up! Get involved by telling the podcast team about your favourite childhood books via email or the Facebook page, then watch the live recording of the episode (adults only).

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One of the popular services is digitizing old media. “We can convert VHS and actually anything that has RCA outputs, so if you have an old camcorder, you can plug that into our converter,” says ideaMILL assistant Dennis Penner (he’s also the producer and audio engineer of the library’s Time to Read podcast, an interactive book club at “Cassette tapes, LPs, photographs, 35mm film, slides, large-format films. All of the conversion is real time so if you’ve got a two-hour VHS tape, you’re there for two hours. But we’ve had people converting wedding videos, Christmases, graduations, because a lot of VHS tapes are starting to deteriorate.

“We’ve had people come by just to watch the video to see if it’s something they wanted to keep… ‘What was this again?’ ”

The software available on the high-end PCs includes Adobe Creative Suite, Blender, Cura and many more. You can learn to make a 3D design and then have it printed on one of the two Ultimaker 3 3D printers that are available for public use (this service is so popular, there’s currently a two-week waiting list).

Patrons can try out green-screen technology or don an Occulus Rift headset to test virtual-reality programs.

Ally Gonzalo cleans up after scanning negatives at the ideaMILL. (Mikaela Mackenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

One well-lit room is set aside as as sewing/tool room, with four sewing machines, a serger, button makers and shelves of supplies such as hot glue guns, notions, scraps of fabric and yarn, an extensive collection of hand tools, soldering irons, rotary tools like a dremel, and engravers.

“Just the other day there was a guy dismantling laptop batteries to recover the smaller batteries within them because he’s in the process of making his own electric bike,” Penner says. “So he was using the soldering equipment and the rubber mallet.”

Classes include a drop-in knitting circle, Sewing Sundays, Intro to TinkerCAD and 3D Printing, and Intro to Podcasting.

Guidelines and rules are available at Equipment can be booked online with a library card. Tours are available: book at 204-986-5543.

Social workers: Six days a week, patrons in need can get help connecting with a variety of services, from counselling and health-care information to employment and income assistance and housing, from Bruce Fiske and Sheila Bughao. The two community-crisis workers are on staff at the Millennium Library downtown and also make calls to other branches.

Sheila Bughao is a community crisis worker for Winnipeg Public Library. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Winnipeg was one of the first cities in Canada to hire full-time social workers; many other centres have since followed suit. Fiske and Bughao are there for patrons dealing with such issues as addiction, mental illness, poverty and homelessness. They also have resources for newcomers to Canada who need help accessing social services; the board outside their office holds pamphlets on everything from gang-tattoo removal to support for families of Alzheimer’s patients.

The public can access a community-crisis worker at Millennium on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

There is also a crisis worker at St. Boniface Library on Mondays from 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Adult programming: As spring break approaches (March 23-31), many parents are already planning to take advantage of the many programs aimed at little and no-so-little ones, such as Reading With Raptors (stories accompanied by a visit from Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre staff and their owls, falcons and other wild animals), a card-making workshop at the Osborne Library or Marble Run Mania at the Westwood branch. But the Winnipeg Public Library’s 20 branches also offer a year-round slate of programs, lectures and classes specifically for adults, as well as others that are suitable for any age.

Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre staff and their animals are regular visitors to local libraries. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“I don’t even know how many programs we have going — that’s how many we offer,” Pilon says. “There’s all the traditional stuff, like lectures, concerts, baby’s story time. But we also have Indigenous language classes. We have a long-running NFB and documentary film series. We have the writer-in-residence program. We have partnerships with local organizations like Manitoba Theatre Centre. You can drop in and get your simple tax return done.”

There are opportunities to learn about local history and genealogy, mushroom cultivation and vertical gardening, crossword design and computer basics; Maker Labs includes a robotics course and a series on stop-motion animation.

Law in the Library programming provides information on dealing with wills, immigration law, grandparents’ rights, impaired driving and copyright. English conversation groups meet at branches all over the city.

Information on all programs is available at

SAD lamps: Though the light streaming through the Millennium Library’s huge windows bathes the study carrels in a warm glow on a good day, Winnipeg’s dark winters can still take their toll on people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD, a condition that can cause lack of motivation and depression.

Visitors to the Millennium, St. James-Assiniboia, Harvey Smith and St. Boniface libraries have access to SAD lamps, which emit light similar to sunlight without UV rays. (Mikaela Mackenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

In association with the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, Millennium, St. James-Assiniboia, Harvey Smith and St. Boniface libraries provide free access to SAD lamps, which emit light similar to sunlight without UV rays and can be used as a source of vitamin D during dreary winter days.

Twitter: @dedaumier

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Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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