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Hay River library strives to make inclusive space during Pride

Last modified: June 23, 2021 at 8:13pm


The NWT Centennial Library in Hay River received a Pride makeover this month.

“We felt it was really important to acknowledge and celebrate Pride Month for the whole month of June,” said program librarian Marissa Oteiza.

“We want the library just to be a really welcoming space for 2SLGBTQ+ patrons.”

A book display featuring 2SLGBTQ+ authors in celebration of Pride Month at Centennial Library in Hay River. Photo: Submitted

Kleo Skavinski, a student at the University of British Columbia and a librarian summer student with the NWT government, said the impetus for focusing on Pride awareness at the library this year was, “noticing the lack of representation in the North.” 

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“Being in a more liberal space like Vancouver, you get to see Pride and how big Pride can be,” Skavinski said. “But then I came back home this summer and there’s no Pride events, even despite Covid, there’s no signs for it, it’s kind of disheartening.

“It’s disappointing to see that we’re not really having the support all over, not because it’s not wanted. But it is needed, I believe, for everyone, not just for people with 2SLGBTQ+ identities.”

Marissa Oteiza, the Program Librarian at the NWT Centennial Library, and Kleo Skavinski, GNWT librarian summer student. Photo: Submitted

Making space to celebrate Pride at the NWT Centennial Library has personal significance for Oteiza who said she’s in the process of coming out as bisexual. 

“Growing up in a small northern town, sometimes it doesn’t feel very welcoming or safe to come out as as gay or lesbian or queer,” Oteiza said. 

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“And same with Kleo, we just feel like if we stand up and say, ‘I’m queer, I’m here,’ and just kind of be like role models for other people that might not feel comfortable or safe doing that in a small northern town.”

Oteiza said while the Hay River library does have a history of hosting pride events, the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented the library staff from hosting any in-person events this year.  

A rainbow water dragon art piece for Pride Month in the children’s section of the NWT Centennial Library. Photo: Submitted

Even without events, Oteiza and Skavinski managed to bring the spirit of Pride Month into the library by putting up informational posters, creating displays featuring books by 2SLGBTQ+ authors, and adding rainbow-themed decor. 

Oteiza and Skavinski’s most ornate Pride Month-themed creation is an art piece for the children’s section — a rainbow water dragon named Xanadu.

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