A Piece of the Puzzle

– Peter Chaisson’s story 
By Fadila Chater 

 

The jigsaw puzzle lay in pieces on a table at the Windsor Regional Library. It waits for the day anyone—man, woman or child—would put it together again. Days go by. An occasional hand appears and fiddles with a piece or two. For months, the jigsaw puzzle remained scattered and neglected. Until one fateful day. 

“It’s evolved to the point where you have people from different aspects of society—people who did not know each other—standing around that table, putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” Library clerk Peter Chaisson says. We sit and chat at the library, where he’s worked for the last seven years. 

“You know, finishing it, enjoy finishing it, waiting for the next one to come out. People probably would have never interacted if not for that puzzle sitting on the table.” 

Without sounding too cheesy, the jigsaw puzzle, when complete, is like a happy community. A library, whether it’s a local one like Windsor Regional or an architectural masterpiece like Halifax Central, is a piece of that puzzle. Though, the main focus of libraries has been on the borrowing of books, in recent years libraries, and hardcopy books for that matter, have been facing issues of relevancy. But Peter Chaisson has made it his ambition to keep libraries, specifically the Windsor Regional Library, alive. 

Peter grew up in a small mining community in Cape Breton called New Waterford. He remembers walking to school and church with his neighbours. Nearly everyone in town worked at the mines. And if they didn’t work at the mines, they worked at the diners and support services that serve the miners. Peter, however, worked thirty years for Parks Canada before meeting his wife. She was from the Annapolis Valley—hundreds of kilometers away. The pair decided to find a home closer to her hometown. And, by sheer coincidence, they settled in Windsor, near the old Gypsum Mines. 

“There is an irony there, yes,” Peter laughs. 

A year later, Peter found work at the Windsor Regional Library. Peter, who was used to managerial positions at Parks Canada, suddenly found himself at the bottom of the pecking order. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“I’m enjoying every minute of it. The library as part of the community is a really relaxed place to work. Unlike some community services, people who come to the library—it’s all a positive experience. It’s a very pleasant place to work.” 

Though, pleasant may not have been the best word describe libraries when Peter was growing up. Libraries, in his day, were usually sombre, cold and uninviting places where only the learned and scholarly found solace and comfort. Today, and for many different reasons, libraries have become community hubs, focused on providing an inclusive gathering space for work and pleasure.  

“We have a photography group that meets every two weeks here. We have knitters and sewers that gather once a week. It’s a library, and it’s books, and it’s borrowing and it’s research. But it’s also a community and getting the community involved.” 

The Windsor Regional Library, like many other libraries today, provide social services like computer and internet access for people, mostly the elderly and those in rural and low-income households. They allow people the opportunity to participate online. They offer group meeting spaces to allow people to gather and interact with each other in a quiet and comfortable area. 

“In terms of the Happy Community Project, I got involved the way many people got involved,” Peter says. “Barry approached me. It’s pretty hard to hide from people when you’re in a library.” 

As an active member of his community, Peter got involved in the Happy Community Project’s first annual Greatest Patchwork Picnic. He was involved in the brainstorming of the event, which was a challenging, yet rewarding process. He was also involved in the Avon Community Farmers’ Market, in which his wife is a vendor.  

“The success is very much due to a lot of people getting involved and creating things that are of interest,” he says. “The whole concept of the Happy Community—it has tentacles and it reaches farther than creating an event. There’s more to it than that.” 

Peter says creating a happy community is not an overnight process. It takes time, hard work and dedication. And many, many challenges. Though, with a continued effort, the Happy Community Project has already made an impact in the lives of people in Windsor and West Hants. Community-organized initiatives like the Welcome Newcomers night, Movies in the Park and the annual picnic have created an environment in which regular people are empowered and excited about their community. 

In a lot of ways, the Windsor Regional Library and the Happy Community Project complement each other.   

“We’re on a parallel track,” Peter says. “The whole concept of the Happy Community Project is to bring the community together to create events, venues and opportunities for people to get together. The Library is evolving in some way like that, insomuch as the facility is being used more and more for things other than the borrowing of books.” 

In an ever increasingly technological world, where human interaction—and even book-reading—is reduced to keyboards and screen time—Peter Chaisson fights back irrelevancy by putting community needs first at the Windsor Regional Library. The library is a piece of the of a jigsaw puzzle in which its counterpart is the Happy Community Project. When connected, they complete complete the happy community puzzle.  

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