Hairstylists cut back to help prevent children’s library cutbacks
The pen might be mightier than the sword, but scissors ruled on a charity day last month at one of Montreal’s trendiest hair salons.
For five frenetic hours, Salon Pure’s team of 40 hairstylists trimmed, permed, coloured and cut as usual—except that no staff was paid. They donated every penny they earned, including tips, to the Montreal Children’s Library, which once again finds itself on precarious ground.
“It’s a challenging time,” says Bernie Shalinsky, the library’s executive director. “Raising funds is always hard for non-profits and it is particularly difficult this year. There are changes in the financial world, and the individual donors and foundations are cutting back.”
The Montreal Children’s Library, an offshoot of the Fraser Hickson Library, has been in operation for 82 years, since 1929, Shalinsky says. It is a mobile library that sets up where the need for children’s books is the greatest. It has three branches, in Little Burgundy, St. Michel and at Atwater Library, where it rents space for books and offices. About 75,000 children, whose access to books and educational activities would otherwise be limited, benefit.
Serving children from babyhood to 15, the services have always been free. “We provide books, but the programs are a very big part of what we do,” Shalinsky says.
These include science, crafts, chess, author readings, mom and tot programs and the Mother Goose program for babies and toddlers, where young children absorb pre-literacy skills through music, rhythm and movement.
“We are located in areas that are considered disadvantaged, that don’t have all the support systems. We know that literacy is a key in child development, that children who grow up literate can move ahead while children without will be held back,” Shalinsky says.
The library relies on the boroughs where its branches are located for one-fifth of its operating budget. The grant has not been indexed over the years and last year, borough funding for the Richmond Square branch in Little Burgundy was been cut by one-third, says Linda Miller, president of the board of the library.
“This is such an important library. We’re swamped with kids, they use it every single day.”
With major highways surrounding the area, Miller says this branch is “like Mother Earth” to the residents of Little Burgundy, where it is the only accessible library.
The building housing the Atwater Library was recently designated a heritage building and will receive a grant to bring it up to code. The Montreal Children’s Library might have to move.
“As soon as they get the money, they are putting in an elevator, but that will cut into our offices. They will have to break through the wall of our tiny library and we will have to close while they work. Even if they work at night, what do we do about the dust, plaster, construction dust? It is too much for children. We don’t want to close the library, as the kids are so dependent on it.”
They are still negotiating with Atwater. In the long run, “I don’t see us surviving without more support from the communities at large. It’s a tragedy if people don’t recognize this.”
But it appears that the Montreal Children’s Library has some ardent supporters. At last count, Salon Pure raised $4,700 through what Miller called “an amazing act of generosity.”
Award-winning colourist Monia Grieco was enthusiastic about the immediacy of the initiative. “The way we are raising money, you know that the very next day the library staff are buying what they need.”
Grieco said the salon chose to raise funds for the library because they want to support children’s literacy in the face of funding cuts in today’s tight economy. “The government and corporations decide that the best place to save is what they already give away. But I don’t think by cutting today’s potential you can fix tomorrow.”
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