James MacDonald returned to Elk Point to begin his new role as executive director of the Northern Lights Library System by working remotely on February 1. After quarantining for two weeks he was able to begin working in-office on February 15.
MacDonald previously worked in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as British Columbia and the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. He has a masters in library and information science and is also a certified digital archivist.
However, he is no stranger to Elk Point or to the Northern Lights Library System (NLLS).
As a past employee, he came to the NLLS as a consultant right after graduating from the University of Alberta. Since then, even though he travelled elsewhere, he continued to maintain a rental property in Elk Point for the past 12 years.
“It’s a really great place to work, and I like the idea of my son finishing out high school in a small town with a small group of kids,” said MacDonald.
“You aren’t going to get mass transit in Elk Point, but I love the lifestyle. People are friendly, I can walk to work, and there is a slower place of life that is super enjoyable. I’m a huge outdoor kind of guy, and part of the appeal of a small town is that they are close to nature.”
As executive director, he will be overseeing over 20 employees who work to connect nearly 50 libraries. NLLS assists libraries with super-net and software–purchasing books, cataloging them, and transporting them–as well as consultants who can support, book and program selection.
He said they have an amazing staff, some of whom even remember him from his early days. His goal now is to see these libraries thrive and make services in northeastern Alberta among the best library services in the world.
“I think you can have a little library, but being connected to a larger system like ours makes their services as palpable and excellent as an urban center, greatly enhancing their ability to deliver library services,” said MacDonald.
Rural communities can receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of electronic resources that they couldn’t otherwise afford, and he said it can create the difference between having access to 3,000 books and 3 million books, as well as the available expertise of professional librarians.
“Why do libraries exist but to enhance every community they are a part of,” said MacDonald.
“They’ve done studies that show readers of fiction are typically more empathetic than other people. If the world needs anything right now – it’s empathy.
“That’s what libraries bring – we bring connection, we bring the world to these small communities, we bring the rest of humanity and that’s the only way we can survive as a species. I believe in the good that libraries can do for communities.”