While many people have visited the Medicine Spring Library at Blackfeet Community College, folks may not realize how wide-ranging their programs are. As head Librarian Aaron LaFromboise explained, “As a community library we’re open to everyone on the reservation and the surrounding communities. We can do our own schedule, and we can be responsive. If it doesn’t work, we can change it. For example, we tried to do activities on Wednesdays, but we learned people go to the Casino on Wednesdays so we learned not to schedule things then. We need to know what’s going on in the community so we’re not competing.”
In serving such a wide community of people, LaFromboise said it all comes down to one thing. “Access to information,” she said. “In a tribal library, information is more than what’s in a book, like oral traditions, and we have programs which can perpetuate oral tradition.”
The library began doing outreach to the community about two years ago, with no direct funding apart from a few small grants. “We want to create partnerships to create a venue and the people to provide programs,” LaFromboise said.
One of those partnerships is with Blackfeet at HeArt, a group from Whitefish that also aids students at Browning High School. “With Blackfeet at HeArt we have funding for supplies,” LaFromboise said. “They were trying to do community art instruction so they looked around the community for how they could suggest ideas for a program, but they saw that much of that already exists at BCC. At first they donated supplies; now we get money to restock painting, beading and markers, so this year we created a fall schedule and ordered everything at once. Because of Blackfeet at HeArt we have a lot of art.”
The programs featured at the Medicine Spring Library are aimed at youngsters, students and the community. “We did painting in September – it was splatter painting with toothbrushes - we bought the toothbrushes and now there’s paint splattered everywhere,” LaFromboise said. “It’s a really fun program; it’s not a big setup. Beading and quilting are more intensive so that will probably go to a two-day workshop. We had six people at quilting last night. In December we’re doing card making.”
While grants and Blackfeet at HeArt contribute much of the material the Medicine Spring Library uses for programs, library personnel also do their part. “We provide a lot ourselves,” she said. “Lots of donations come in from me because I’m a crafty person, and people donate things to me so I don’t mind sharing. I really like sharing with people, and there’s really something special about homemade cards.”
Another ongoing activity is the BCC book club. “We’ve had a reemergence of the book club,” LaFromboise said. “We had one a couple years ago; now there’s about 10 people in the ‘Novel Bunch.’ We’re looking at Native American authors now, like Cherie Dimaline, author of ‘The Marrow Thieves.’ What’s emerging now is Native American science fiction authors, so we’re going there next.”
With so much going on, LaFromboise and the Medicine Spring Library are looking for more ways to engage the community. “I’d like to do more kids programs,” she said. “We had an Easter Egg hunt at the library and there were 50 or 60 kids in last spring – they were really orderly and well behaved. We also have robotics for girls which is sponsored by the Girl Scouts.
“Our winter-spring schedule is coming out in December,” she continued. “In the summer we go to Indian Days and give away books. We will also open on weekends for programs – last weekend we had a Dungeons and Dragons group and a group on concho belt makers.” She noted the library needs at least a week’s advance notice to set things up for groups coming in over the weekend.
For the rest of November, the Medicine Spring Library’s “Novel Bunch” is meeting from 5 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21. Then it’s Open Mic Night from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25, and College Movie Night from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 26.