Library board chair steps down, clears up rumours

Staff Reporter

BARRY’S BAY – The board chair of the Barry’s Bay and Area Public Library has stepped down from her position of five years.

As the board looks to the library’s future, Betty Kirby said she felt it was time to hand the reins over to someone else.

“I thought it was a good time for someone else to take over,” Kirby explained.
Relatively new board member Iwona Mooney will be taking over the role. Kirby put the motion on the floor at the last meeting, and the board approved. Mooney is currently travelling in the United States and was unavailable for comment.

“I felt that she was far more computer-savvy, and because she worked in the [library] industry before, she has much better contacts. So I felt that she would be the better chair for the time,” Kirby explained.


While Kirby is a familiar face at the library, her journey to the Bay was a long one.
She was born, raised and married in North Bay. Her husband was in the Air Forces as a military policeman at the time, and the couple moved to Chibougamau, Quebec, where they lived for three years.

Her husband was transferred to Ottawa, where he later became an officer with the Gloucester Police Force (which amalgamated in 1995 with the Ottawa and Nepean police forces to form the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service.)

The couple had three daughters and decided to relocate from Ottawa to a small farming community called Russell, 40 kilometres southeast of the city. That was in 1980.

“We wanted to get the kids out of the city,” she said.

Years went by, the children moved out, and Kirby’s husband retired. The town of Russell was getting bigger and didn’t suit the Kirbys’ lifestyle. So, they decided to relocate.

“I told my husband that I would move someplace that had to have a hospital, a library, and basic shopping,” she said. “Those were the criteria that he had to work with. He had been coming up here for a number of years because a guy he knows had a hunt camp off of Paugh Lake Road. So he knew Barry’s Bay quite well and he was quite keen to get me up here.”

They found a suitable house and made their way to the Bay.

Tragedy struck in the year 2000, however, when Kirby was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a way to get through it, she would visit the Bay library whenever she got a chance.

“I read my way through my treatment,” she said. “I was at the library every couple of days getting three or four novels. I would go home; if the day was nice I would get out on the front porch with a lounger…and I would just read.”

She bonded with former librarian Angela Lorbetskie, who would recommend different authors to her.

“I never really felt threatened with the breast cancer, it was just something that I had to journey through,” she said. “I felt that [reading] kept my mind busy and doing things.”
It was that positive experience that compelled Kirby to run for – and get a seat on – the library board.


A few years later, she and her husband were contemplating moving back to North Bay, so Kirby stepped down from the position. When they realized that they were staying, Kirby decided to re-join.

This time she became the board chair, where she has remained for five years. In total, she has roughly nine years experience as a board member.

A board chair is the person that works closely with the librarian and CEO (Karen Filipkowski.) They also chair the meetings and act as a go-between with staff and the board.

During her volunteer efforts, Kirby said she and her board accomplished much together.

“While I was board chair, our biggest accomplishments were our 50th anniversary celebrations that we had and replacing Angela as CEO, which was a major job,” she said, adding that getting newspapers on Microfiche was another success.

When it comes to obstacles, they were far and few between.

“The people that are on the board…we all work so well together on everything,” Kirby said. “It’s never really an obstacle because there is always someone there with a good idea, someone is always working.”

However, the biggest problem that the board is trying to solve is its spacing issue.

“Every book that comes in, we have to take a book off the shelf,” she said. “The obstacle is finding the room for everything.”

Technology is ever-evolving, and Kirby said it would be nice to have a library to accommodate such growing changes.

This story continues in the February 9 issue of The Valley Gazette.