Anyone looking for a nice, quiet place to read Tuesday morning didn’t find it at the Guelph Public Library’s east side branch. But if you were looking to pet a snake – and it appears a great many children and parents had just such a desire – the branch was the place to be.
A library official and Grand River Conservation Authority educator were surprised and overwhelmed by the response to the Guelph Lake Nature Centre’s Live Animal Show. It was just one hour on a snowy morning, but it may go down as one of most raucous 60 minutes ever in a local library.
“It’s just incredible,” said Ann Schletz, an environmental educator at the centre. “I mean, wow.”
As she spoke she held a fairly hefty and long ball python in both hand as a queue of children and parents waited their turn to pet the reptile.
Most of the children appeared receptive to the idea of holding the snake, while grown-ups seemed less willing.
The library’s parking lot was completely packed, and cars were crammed into an overflow area and side streets adjacent to a residential development.
Robin Tunney, GPL director of branches, said about 300 people were crowded into the branch for the March Break event, an unprecedented number for that or any other branch.
“We did expect a crowd, but nothing like this,” Tunney said. “Whenever the Guelph Lake Nature Centre comes around with the animals we get a great turnout.”
The combination of March Break, wintry conditions, and the fact the library is the only public facility that’s open on the east side, all contributed to the bombardment. Tunney was very pleased with the vibrancy and bustle in the space.
The noise was intense. Schletz was barely audible over it, as she offered a few fun facts about the snake, a turtle, and a cockroach as big as your ear.
“There’s still a cheerful mood in here,” Tunney said. “That’s a good thing.”
Schletz said she has done the Live Animal Show in front of audiences of about 60 before, and usually breaks the event into two smaller groups. A crowd of 300 was new territory for her.
She explained the popularity of the show in simple terms.
“Kids love animals,” she said, as a small boy took the heavy snake in his hands.