By Donna McMillan
THE Norfolk County Public Library system is ‘more than books!’ and for retiring Library CEO Heather King, her 43-year career with Norfolk County has been more than just libraries and more than just a job. It’s been a lifetime commitment to community service. “It’s been a great journey working with some incredible people,” Heather told the Maple Leaf.
“I’ve never had a day that I didn’t want to go to work,” said Heather. As well as the people she’s worked with, Heather also expressed gratitude for family and friends. “They have been my best support network and volunteers, assisting with numerous projects along the way,” she said.
She is also grateful for the positive working experiences she had with so many different supervisors “who encouraged life-long learning and thinking outside the box.”
Heather is retiring December 31.
Her decades of working for Norfolk County began with three summers as a student program leader with the former City of Nanticoke, 13 years with the former Town of Simcoe as the Recreation Program Supervisor, then Manager; two years with the Township of Delhi as the pre-school story teacher at the Library; four years with the Haldimand–Norfolk Health Unit as a health promoter; 13 years with Norfolk County as the Community Program Supervisor in the Recreation Division and eight years with the Norfolk County Public Library.
For the past eight years, she has been CEO of NCPL with branches in Port Dover, Delhi, Port Rowan, Simcoe and Waterford. And that isn’t everything. Over the years, Heather has worked for the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation as a grant coordinator, part-time teacher of Recreation in the Development Service Worker Program for Fanshawe College in Simcoe, full-time instructor for Mohawk College’s Recreation Leadership Program for two years in Hamilton and operated her own business for two years – Events by Heather King and associates – fundraising for Children’s Aid, Lighthouse Theatre and Friendship Groups Canada.
Joan Stetson was a Mentor
Heather is the daughter of Ernest and Evelyn Shoff. She and brother Bruce grew up on Highway 6 just west of the Blueline, Heather shared. She attended Port Dover Public, Doverwood, Port Dover Composite School, Fanshawe College, Brock University where she did her undergraduate degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies and University of Western Ontario where she earned her Masters of Public Administration. Heather has been married to her high school sweetheart, Miles King, for 39 years. Together, they have two grown daughters and three grandchildren.
“Community recreation has always been my passion,” Heather shared, starting with camps as a teenager and on to planning and providing events and services at the municipal level.
“Even my work at the library is a form of passive recreation; meeting the community needs through opportunities for literacy of many kinds with programs and special events: digital, financial, reading, early learning, culinary, etc.”
The late Joan Stetson was an inspiration for her, Heather shared, giving her a first opportunity in a recreation setting at Five Oaks and Ryerson Beach Camps. Joan was an early mentor who soon became a close friend.
Her Recreation Department highlights with Norfolk County ran from organizing two Olympic Torch runs and serving on the Sports Hall of Recognition committee to working with Dwayne Roloson to offer goalie school and Red Kelly on various projects… and many more.
Heather praised the teamwork that resulted in renovations and new library builds in Delhi and Port Dover; to working with Friends of the Library in Port Dover and Delhi; to establishing the ‘Norfolk Remembers’ book project and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and more.
Through the Dolly Parton project, Heather says there are now 425 children up to the age of five who receive a free book each month.
She is proud to have seen the number of library cardholders increase from 7,000 to 21,000. In addition, reserve funds have grown from a deficit to $470,000, she shared. There are a total of 40 staff, 12 full-time and 28 part-time.
More than Books!
Former Port Dover councillor John Wells suggested that the NCPL tagline should be… “more than books!”
Heather shared that means library users have access to digital services including computers, 3D printers, sewing machines and more. The library offers Maker kits to borrow for all ages; accessible reading formats and free WiFi.
Each Norfolk library has a free pantry with personal hygiene products as well as community living rooms to watch television, surf safely or read a newspaper.
Heather is pleased with the move to Lakewood School for the Port Dover Library, noting that it increased space and the building is fully accessible. The library and school together create a community hub. They also partnered with the Horticultural Society to establish a community garden.
Looking ahead, the library is hoping to provide service to nursing and retirement homes, she shared. The library is also working to increase multilingual collections for French Immersion and migrant worker needs and a Youth Engagement Strategy. Challenges are always funding.
In her retirement, Heather is looking forward to taking time to decompress after a busy career, play golf, garden, read, babysit her newest grandson, travel when Covid settles down and being involved with the United Church as a licensed lay worship leader.