LAKELAND - Back by popular demand, the Northern Lights Library System, which includes 50 member libraries in northern Alberta, is making its Pen Pal program a part of the 2023 Summer Reading Program, which is themed, "Feast of Knowledge."
Kat Eliason, a librarian from the Bonnyville Municipal Library stated last year 160 people from 21 libraries participated in the free pen pal program where people of all ages could register and send letters to people across northern Alberta. Although the program only runs throughout the months of July and August, people can continue the friendships after the end of August.
Eliason explained the idea was discussed with the Northern Lights Library System (NLLS) Reading Programs Committee while they were planning activities to enhance the libraries' Summer Reading Program offerings. Eliason, who was on committee, explains, “It was based on a similar idea one of the committee members had done with a sister library in another province a few years previous. The committee wanted a way to build community in the larger area and encourage multi-generational comradery, and pen pals seemed like a great way to do that. After sorting out the logistics with the inter-library loan crew that sends books between libraries, it was approved and was a huge success.”
In the summer of 2022, some libraries saw seniors enjoying the nostalgia of letter writing and having fun writing.
“Everyone who wrote letters, kids, adults, and seniors, had lots of fun writing and were always excited when they had a new letter to pick up," said Eliason.
When visiting a local library this summer, patrons can look for letter writing stations set up with stickers and fun paper to enhance the experience, as some libraries did last year. Patrons might even get paired with a librarian as their pen pal, as several librarians within NLLS signed up to be pen pals as well.
Interested parties who want to join the pen pal program just need to indicate where they would like to pick-up and drop-off their letters and agree to send at least two letters in the summer.
Parents are encouraged to be involved with the letter writing process with their children.
The deadline to sign up for the pen pal program is June 12.
Cold Lake Public Library, St. Paul Municipal Library, Lac La Biche County Libraries, and Bonnyville Municipal Library are part of the program this summer. Patrons can check with staff from their local library to see if they are involved too.