When people think of the library, they tend to think only of a building full of books. I’m often surprised at how many of my friends and neighbours don’t realize the range of special events programming our library offers throughout the year. From babies to seniors and everyone in between, the Burlington Public Library has programs for everyone — most of which
are completely free!
Each season, a 12-page BPL Guide is distributed that lists well over 100 programs and classes across six branches throughout the city. The first thing I do with a new schedule is leaf through it in search of the featured speaker line-up for that quarter.
As I browsed the Winter schedule, I spotted a program that I knew would be a must-see. “The Gibbons of Thailand” promised an evening with anthropologist Jackie Prime talking about “the magnificent gibbons, how they can help us understand the human condition, and what we can do to help save them from extinction.” As it happens, 6-year old Jr Burlington is a budding scientist who soaks up, synthesizes and retains any information about nature (especially animals and dinosaurs). I knew he would love this! The program was accompanied by a symbol noting that it was suitable for “all ages and abilities” so I added this one to our January adventure calendar.
Jackie began her presentation with a photo of M.M. Robinson High School. She asked the question, “How does an ordinary teenager from Burlington end up living alone on the opposite side of the globe, spending years in the forests of Thailand as the only foreign researcher in one of the country’s largest protected rainforests?”
Her story that followed was one of dedication, perseverance in the face of obstacles, and accepting unexpected challenges with spirit and determination. It was a story of relying on the kindness of strangers, learning the local language fast and, trying to make new friends in order to survive so far away from home. Amusingly, it was also a story of the “soap opera” social lives that gibbons lead! Ultimately, Jackie discovered a lot about gibbons, but even more about the basic intrinsic value of what it means to be human.
Jackie explained to us that Anthropology is about the similarities and differences that connect us and make us a part of this world, but also about what makes us unique as a
species and as individuals within our species. “It is this variety that makes life so beautiful, mysterious and wonderful.”
And that’s what was fantastic about Jackie’s talk. Accompanying her explanation of primates and her stories of adventure was a broader, inspirational message about making a difference in the world and following your dreams. It is this message, as summarized in the illustration below, that I took home with me (it’s now even posted on my wall).
Jackie is truly passionate about sharing this message and has developed the Jackie Prime Project to “promote compassionate knowledge of the world and our place within it.” Visit her website to learn more about the mission of the project and to view photos and videos of the gibbons of Thailand that we now know so much more about because of her work.
Keep watching the seasonal library programming guides for special speakers that are of interest to you and your family. You just might find someone who will influence your path in life as Jackie did mine (and, I believe, my son’s as well).
When was the last time you visited the library for something other than books?