New Library APP for Kids

Nick Poithier, a graduate of the UNB computer science program, has developed a free library App aimed at promoting reading to children.

My Book Buddy is the name of the App, which is currently available for Apple products and soon will be ready for download on Android devices.

The App highlights books, videos, audiobooks while encouraging parents and children to talk, play, read, sing and write.

Be sure to check out this free App from the Library!APP


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In 130 words or less…

This Fall, we asked you to tell us why you love the Saint John Free Public Library, in 130 words or less. We received 32 entries, with the winner being drawn randomly at our Victorian Open House last Saturday (Congratulations to Martin Wightman on winning the KOBO eReader!). Thank to all who submitted; we were thrilled to see so many terrific entries!

Here are a few of the ones we received…

“I don’t know too many places where I’m always happy to go to. The library is a happy place to go to. The Librarians are always in a good mood, are always helpful and deserve a Best Customer Service Award. And, such interesting conversations I hear or am part of. Listening to book club members exchanging information, oohing and aahing about a book or an author. Many times I’ve taken out my pen and paper to copy book titles that I overhear are well worth reading. It is always a pleasure to see young kids at the library. So proudly they go to the counter to check out their books. So proud to be reading, so proud to be treated so special. A happy place for everyone.”

– Wanda Ballantyne

“I have walked into many many buildings in Saint John, in fact I have been doing that for more than 30 years, but the smell and the sight of so many books gives a feeling of warmth and wonder that can’t be found in the biggest department store or the fanciest coffee shop. The library has always felt like home and hearth, I have never felt so welcomed as I do in the pages of a book or as comfortable as in the home that houses them.  In a society where everything is electronic and the printed word is becoming rarer there is nothing more precious to a city than the history and tradition that the library holds.”

– Amanda Evans

“I enjoy the resources, the comfortable atmosphere, and the chance to relax curled with a good book.  The Saint John library is a home away from home for me, in it I can work peacefully, meet people, play chess, read, write, and have the luxury to do so in an environment which is geared toward peace as opposed to stress.  The library is simply put one of the centers of my world.  I would feel lost without it.  Finally the view is spectacular and the staff courteous and polite.  In short it is a home away from home for me.”

-Scott Godfrey

“One of my favorite childhood memories is of going to the library with my mother. There were always crafts as well as new books to borrow. As a parent, taking my children to the library was an important tradition to continue. We have listened to Robert Munsch reading, enjoyed the Saint John String Quartet, and of course read books aloud in the reading corner. Learning a love and appreciation for books and culture starts for our family at our local library.”

– Andrea Levesque

“I love the library because I can escape whatever is going on in my world and step into someone else’s. I can travel to a different time and place. I can read a newspaper from a warm destination when the wintry winds are howling. I can look at a picture book and remember when I was a child. I can view a microfilm and travel back in time. I can listen to a CD and remember the lyrics of a familiar song. I can watch a DVD and find a missing episode. I can read a magazine and copy out a favourite recipe. I can use the computer and connect with a distant friend. The best part? I can teach someone to read and share the joys of my library!”

– Glenda Thornton

“The first time I came to the library, I discovered the heart-pounding competition of getting the newspaper. It was a touch frustrating, but my patience paid off in two “library friendships” forged over the Telegraph-Journal and the Globe & Mail. Oddly enough, neither of my two friends seemed to speak English, but it didn’t matter – we had bonded over the written word, and that was enough.”

– Martin A. Wightman

“I love the unqualified support we readers and writers receive. It doesn’t matter if we bring mental illnesses, coffees, food stuffs, a bad attitude, bad hair, the smell of a day at work or a week in a dark corner between buildings. This library celebrates the written world. The rest of life takes a back bench.”

– John Hanson

“Books are like grand kids. You can play with them then give them back to their rightful caretakers!”

– Jim Norfolk

Peter C

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Victorian Open House a smashing success!

The year is quickly coming to an end, but the Saint John Free Public Library in Market Square had one more party up its sleeve to celebrate its 130th anniversary. The library’s Victorian Open House took guests back to the Christmas of 1883, the year of our founding, with music, refreshments, and readings from members of the community.

John Boyd, impersonated by David Goss, started things off by reminiscing about his life in the 19th century. An immigrant from Ireland, Boyd was a well-educated lover of books who once owned the largest literary collection in Saint John. After he lost everything in the Great Fire of 1877, he helped foster the formation of the library in 1883. Dressed in period dress, Goss set the stage for those to come.

Back Row: John Gifkin, Bill Thompson, Harold Wright, Alison Cran, Adrian Thornton & David Goss (aka John Boyd) Front row: Heather McKend, Li Song & Joan Pierce

Back Row: John Gifkin, Bill Thompson, Harold Wright, Alison Cran, Adrian Thornton & David Goss (aka John Boyd)
Front row: Heather McKend, Li Song & Joan Pierce

Pegasus, the Saint John-based band of Alison Cran (recorder) and Adrian Thornton (acoustic guitar), played music from the Victorian era, including the tunes to “What Child is This” and “Irish Carol,” delighting the audience’s ears.

Members of the community shared readings from newspapers and magazines of the day. Joan Pierce, a member of the local genealogy community, shared a heart-warming description of countless slays gliding along present-day Rothesay Avenue, folks from all classes out for a good time in a snowy winter. Heather McKend, Children’s Librarian, read a rather strange newspaper excerpt from the Saint John Globe about a lady on Orange Street who patiently toiled to produce a garden with real greenery, assorted plants, a miniature lake, and a variety of seemingly content birds inside her house, in the middle of the winter! This living indoor oasis from the harshness of the Maritime winter evidently drew some interest from the community. Li Song, John Gifkin, Bill Thompson, and Harold Wright were also on hand to share some stories and articles.

Martin Wightman won a KOBO e-Reader for his entry in our Writing Contest.

Martin Wightman, seen here with our Librarian Carole MacFarquhar. won a KOBO e-Reader for his entry in our Writing Contest.

Carole MacFarquhar, our Young Adult and Adult Services Librarian, read from entries in the library’s 130th anniversary Writing Contest, which asked patrons to explain, in 130 words or less, why they loved the library. Many entries cited the library as being “like a second home.” One name was randomly drawn from the participants to win a KOBO eReader, with Martin Wightman being the lucky recipient.

2013 has indeed been a busy year for the library – a year of both celebration and reflection. While we have a rich past, however, we eagerly look forward to the future, and hope that you our patrons will continue using our services. Long live the Saint John Free Public Library!

Peter C

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Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Moore, Alan (text) & Kevin O’Neill (illus.). The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Omnibus Edition. Vertigo. Sept. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9781401240837. pap. $29.99. F


This paperback reprint edition comprises the first two volumes of writer Moore (From Hell) and illustrator O’Neill’s (Marshal Law) classic metafictional adventure series finds the League firing on all cylinders, delivering entertainment as well as stories and ideas which are both clever and substantial enough to justify the basic conceit: characters from public-domain literature (e.g. Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Mina Murray, Jekyll & Hyde, the Invisible Man & more) brought together Justice League-style to fight outsized dastardly doings such as world domination by air (Volume 1) and a Martian invasion (Volume 2). Fans of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells may be shocked by the dark tone and the blunt graphic portrayals of sex and violence. Others will see the consistency of Moore’s MO: sequential art which acknowledges the exhilarating qualities of the work of his predecessors without ignoring the unsavory aspects. No new extras here, but the cover galleries and additional artwork and prose included remain delectable.

Verdict: Essential for all but the most easily offended readers of graphic novels or popular fiction. Violent, sexual, and drug-related content; suitable for teens & up.

J Osicki, Saint John Free Public Library

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Celebrating our IMPAC Dublin nominees

This past Wednesday, the Saint John Free Public Library in Market Square was very proud to host a celebration of some of our past and current nominees for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The prestigious international award is given every year to a nominee from one of the award’s 110 contributing international libraries, including SJFPL. Four this special evening, more than sixty people came out to the Central Library’s Millennium Art Place to see and hear some of New Brunswick’s and Canada’s finest literary talent.

More than 60 people showed up to hear our nominees read their works

More than 60 people showed up to hear our nominees read their works

Each author was introduced by a member of our local literary and library community.

The evening’s first author was Beth Powning, a long time resident of rural New Brunswick. She read from two works: The Sea Captain’s Wife, which earned her the 2012 nomination from the Saint John Free Public Library; and one of her currently unpublished works. The former tells the story of one Azuba Galloway, a young woman from the Bay of Fundy who marries a ship’s captain, Nathaniel Bradstock. When a scandal embroils the family, Azuba and her daughter have no choice but to take to sea with Nathaniel. Under the duress of the high seas and a male-dominated seafaring culture, Azuba stands as a heroine exemplifying compassion, courage and love. Ms Powning then teased us with an excerpt from her currently unpublished new novel, a work of historical fiction placed in Puritan-era New England.

Beth Powning reading from A Sea Captain's Wife.

Beth Powning reading from A Sea Captain’s Wife

Next on tap was 2013 nominee Riel Nason, born and raised in the Nackawic area and currently residing in Quispamsis. Nason read from her book The Town that Drowned, the story of a young girl named Ruby in a small riverside town in the 1960s. As if growing up doesn’t have its own challenges, Ruby struggles with the fact that her younger brother has aspergers syndrome, a deeply misunderstood condition at the time. Then, survey pickets begin appearing, and after a flurry of small town gossip, it soon becomes clear that the entire town is going to be flooded with the construction of a new dam. How will Ruby and her neighbours cope?


Riel Nason reading from The Town that Drowned

The third author of the evening was 2014 nominee Ben Stephenson, a local man and graduate of Saint John High School, who read from his debut novel A Matter of Life and Death or Something. The book details the anxieties of a ten year old adoptee, who longs for a relationship with his real father while growing up with his adopter, a single father who lives in the woods of Central New Brunswick. Stephenson also shared one of his most recently published short stories.

Ben Stephenson reading from A Matter of Life and Death or Something

Ben Stephenson reading from A Matter of Life and Death or Something

To finish off the evening, another 2014 nominee, Tanis Rideout, a novelist and poet currently living in Toronto (but with New Brunswick roots), shared from her work Above All Things, the dramatic tale of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, who died while attempting to climb Mount Everest in 1924. Written from the perspectives of the two climbers and Mallory’s wife, Rideout explained how the book was her attempt to understand why people would try such a dangerous, and to many critics crazy feat, and to explore the consequences of such a quest.

Tanis Rideout reading from Above All Things.

Tanis Rideout reading from Above All Things

Following the readings, those in attendance had an opportunity to chat with the authors, and get autographs. Indigo Books had all the authors’ books on display for sale. There was cake and other delicious refreshments to be had, and the evening proved to be highly successful. We thank all of the authors for their participation and our patrons for attending. For those who did not attend, we hope to see you at a future author reading!

Peter C

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Genealogy Buffs unite!

Last Wednesday, following a successful search for a new venue, the Saint John Branch of the New Brunswick Genealogy Society held its first monthly meeting at the library. Members were out in force, intrigued as they were by the new location. Accompanying them were a few new genealogy enthusiasts who caught wind of the society over the summer. In all, 41 were in attendance, a significant increase from the previous meeting’s 23.

Dave Laskey, President of the Saint John Branch, opened up the meeting and encouraged new members to introduce themselves. He thanked the library for offering itself as the new home of the society and introduced the guest speaker for the evening, Keith MacKinnon, who serves as Reference Librarian at the Saint John Free Public Library. MacKinnon then took the society on a grand tour of all that the Central Library has to offer researching genealogists.

The first stops were the Miscellaneous Index, which contains references to a vast number of newspapers and archived books, and the Family History collection, which has books and files covering Saint John- and New Brunswick-area families. He pointed out the library’s genealogy computer, which provides free access to websites like, and a large Roe & Colby Atlas of Saint John from 1875, a detailed map with the names of various businesses plotted on it.

Next up were the microfiche machines. It’s no secret that that the Central Library has a huge microfilm collection. After all, researchers from the United States and Europe will often come here to use the collection. Baptisms, marriages, births, deaths, city directories, land records, censuses, miscellaneous scrapbooks…you get the picture. In all, the library has seven microfiche readers and two reader-printers. One of the reader-printers is even hooked up to a computer, allowing you to scan the microfilm image straight to your flash drive.


Genealogy enthusiasts shuffle into the Special Collections Room.

The finale of the tour took the forty of us to the room “where people don’t go,” commonly known as the Special Collections room. In this handsome, Victoria-era room, books, letters, and maps are stored for preservation. Books can be brought out for a few hours for a patron, but the reader must wear white gloves when handling the book to help maintain their condition. The Special Collections room helps ensure that valuable materials, especially those pertaining to New Brunswick, are preserved for future generations.

Following the tour, President Laskey asked those attending what they thought of their new meeting place. Their response? Overwhelming approval! A business meeting was then conducted, offering a glimpse into the workings of the society and the value they offer to their members, including queries where folks can put forth their genealogical dead ends to other members for assistance. At the conclusion of the meeting, members indulged in some sweets with tea and coffee.


It’s never a proper gathering without sweets.

The society’s next meeting will be on October 30th from 7-9 pm. Keith MacKinnon will be back and will share the floor with staff from the New Brunswick Museum. Together, they will demonstrate all of the resources that are available through the museum and library websites. NBGS meetings are held every month and are open to all. Every meeting offers a lecture on a topic relevant to the genealogy community. The society also holds various workshops and publishes a periodical magazine titled “Generations.” For more information on the New Brunswick Genealogy Society, check out their website: The site provides forums, indexes, resource links, and much more. For those interested in genealogy, the society is a resource that simply cannot be ignored!

Peter C

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A Treasure Trove of History

On any day at our library in Market Square, a passerby in Reference Services will probably notice a handful of patrons sitting at several large black and white machines, staring down intently on an illuminated projection screen, studiously taking notes as they work away. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I’m writing about microfilm readers, which allow these patrons to access a whole range of sources on the aptly named microfilm reels. The Saint John Free Public Library has one of the largest collections of microfilm reels in the province, a collection that includes Maritime newspapers dating from the 1700s to the present, and an extensive inventory of city directories, church records, birth and death registries, and census data, among others.


Pictured at the far right, we now have a computer that allows you to take digital scans of your microfilm finds, making microfilm research easier than ever before!

Generally, there are three reasons why a patron will find himself in front of a microfilm reader. Firstly, there are the history buffs. Our collection of reels provides access to more than 100 different newspaper titles from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, along with a handful from Toronto, New York City, and Eastport, Maine. Patrons (from university professors to elementary school students) can use these newspapers for serious historical research, including essays, books, and school projects.

Secondly, some patrons come as genealogy enthusiasts. Our collection provides genealogists with the necessary records to help trace their family history. From births to deaths, baptisms to marriages, and all milestones and record-taking in between, our records contain the story of New Brunswick’s and Saint John’s forefathers. Why not come and see what our records can tell you about your ancestors?

Last but not least, we have the casual carousers. Many folks like to find their birth announcements, or print the front page of the local paper from the day they were born. Others like to look at the old advertisements, reminiscent of a bygone era, or read articles concerning the issues of the day, often not much different than those we have today. In one article I recently found from an 1883 edition of the Saint John Globe, a concerned citizen from the former Town of Portland, who had recently seen his area merge with the much larger City of Saint John, complained of how poorly the city was governed in comparison to the former town. Indeed, such an editorial conjures up parallels to the present, when folks from the Valley protest a proposed amalgamation to the city. Regardless of what one finds though, a search through our newspaper collection will certainly bring out something of interest.


A portion of our microfilm collection, covering more than 250 years of Maritime history.

Once a patron finds an interesting item, he can take the reel to one of our reader/printers, where he or she can get a copy of the article or record via one of two options. If you’re old school, you may prefer to purchase a paper copy of the newspaper article or record for 50₵. However, for those computer-savvy patrons, we now provide a computerised option whereby the patron can scan a copy to their USB thumb drive. This method is compact, free of charge, and easily transferrable.

Microfilm gives you the chance to connect to our past in an easy to navigate method. Maybe it’s time you pay a visit to our microfilm collection! For those who already have, what’s your favourite discovery?

Peter C


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