The new Peninsula Community Library, slated to open in summer 2019, will have the appearance of a charming country farmhouse reflecting the rural character of Old Mission Peninsula. It will feature a fireplace, front and back porches, a patio and gardens that will provide the library with the ambience such a site deserves.
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Built into this quaint setting, however, will be 21st century “green building” concepts and the latest in technological innovations. The much anticipated Community Room, with a 120-person capacity, will provide meeting space for groups and programs of all kinds. It will also feature “hearing loop” capabilities, thanks to the wise suggestion by library supporter Gretchen Soutear and the generous donation made by two other library supporters, sisters Ellen Kerr and Anne Griffiths.
Gretchen was hopeful the new building would feature the loop technology because of her personal experience with people close to her who have experienced hearing loss.
“Many years ago, I was riding in the back seat of the car with my husband and mother who were in the front. They were chatting back and forth and suddenly I realized that their comments did not match. They were merrily talking about two different subjects, and I was the only one who knew it. This represented the life of two somewhat deaf people trying to communicate with each other.”
Without his hearing aids, which are among the best available, Bill Soutear says he lives in a very quiet world. With aids he can carry on a conversation with someone nearby, but if he gets into a noisy restaurant or large auditorium or church, he misses a lot of what is said. As a result, he walks away frustrated and vowing never to return to that venue.
Concern for the hearing disabled stems from family connections for Ellen and Anne, as well. In their youth, they were both greatly influenced by their Aunt Helen, the sister of their mother. They describe her as “a wonderful nurse” with a Master’s Degree in Public Health, whose early life was affected by tuberculosis.
According to the sisters, Helen spent time in her youth in a TB sanitarium and lost her hearing due to the drugs that aided in her cure. While she was a proficient lip reader, she always regretted the isolation that her deafness caused in her social life. “I would rather be blind, than deaf,” she once said. “I would be better able to relate to others,” a claim supported by the fact that she had a brother, Frank, who was blind. Her nieces agree that “It will give us great joy to do this in Helen’s memory.”
When Gretchen, a longtime library volunteer, became involved with helping to raise money for the new building by applying for foundation grants, she was determined to find funds for some sort of accommodation for the hearing impaired. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss.
Learning that several churches in the area featured systems in their sanctuaries that enabled people with aids to tune directly into their sound systems, Gretchen searched the Internet and then spoke with two computer/sound experts. This led her to the “hearing loop” technology which consists of a wire that circles a room, typically hidden in the floor or ceiling, and is connected to the sound system. The electromagnetic signal from the loop is picked up by the telecoils in hearing aids or cochlear implants. To access the loop, the user flips the switch on the hearing aid to activate the telecoil. While this is fairly new technology, most new hearing aids feature a telecoil, and for individuals without it, special receivers can be used to pick up the sound.
After contacting several local foundations, Gretchen learned that they had either changed their focus from grants for the hearing impaired or allotted their funds to other causes. About that time she spoke with Ellen Kerr, also a frequent library volunteer, at a PCL “Thank You” event and mentioned her lack of success in getting funding for the technology. After thoroughly questioning Gretchen about function and cost, Ellen said, “I think my sister, Anne Griffiths, and I would be interested in paying for it.” Gretchen was delighted and exclaimed, “At last!”
Such concern for community is displayed by all three of these women with their deep involvement in Peninsula Community Library and numerous other area organizations and efforts, including Anne and Ellen’s volunteer work with Mission Point Lighthouse Friends. Here they are pictured with Ruth Kitchen, winner of the wine label contest earlier this year.
Library Director Vicki Shurly gratefully acknowledges the donation. “In a community where the average age is 57, we are always looking for unique ways to serve our patrons. The generous donation of the hearing loop allows engagement of hearing disabled patrons in all of our programming. We are thrilled that this donation has allowed us to offer this!”