Andrea Wilmot is a bibliophile, a champion of community libraries, who moved to Prince Rupert for her heart. (Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

Heart Of Our City – Andrea Wilmot is an open book

Prince Rupert’s Andrea Wilmot loves the library for more than its books

To say Andrea Wilmot loves the library is an understatement. Not only is she on the board of trustees at the Prince Rupert Public Library, but on a recent vacation to Myanmar in Southeast Asia, the library — of all places — was one of the highlights of her trip.

“It was such a fascinating experience,” Wilmot said. She and her wife, Jennifer Rice, met the chief librarian in Myanmar and toured their limited collection.

“What I was struck by was that the access to information is just beginning. The computers are not there, so current information is not there. The books are so old. I was struck by that and coming home and just trying to think, ‘How do you open that up? How do you help?’”

Wilmot has volunteered with the Rupert library for a year and a half. Before moving to the North Coast, she sat on the board of trustees in Burns Lake. While she loves fiction and history, Wilmot views the library for more than its books.

As a kid, she spent a lot of time at the library. As an adult, she was drawn to libraries when homeless people she met by working in poverty reduction told her the library is a safe place.

“It’s warm and dry and quiet. It’s a place where they can read the newspaper, use the computer. There’s access to information, but there’s also basic human need, which is safety,” Wilmot said. “I feel very strongly that every community should have that space.”

Being able to use the computer meant the people she worked with could access much-needed government services. Archives was another huge draw. One of the projects Wilmot is most excited about is creating a searchable database for the Daily News, which reported on the comings and goings of Rupert for decades.

“That’s a huge benefit to the community to have access to that knowledge,” Wilmot said.

“History is very important to understand our local history and our global history, because we can learn from it too.”

WATCH: Hometown author reads to Rupert crowd

Rupert is a place with a long history and a reputation for its sense of community, which Wilmot discovered during her frequent visits to the city.

“There’s something about Northern people that’s very special, they’re very community-oriented. They look after each other,” Wilmot said. “Certainly, Rupert is very warm. Not all small northern towns are, but Rupert has something special.”

Originally from Smithers, Wilmot spent a lot of time visiting Prince Rupert, where her father had a fishing boat. She’d been looking for a reason to move to the North Coast when, while visiting friends four years ago, she met Jennifer Rice.

“It was a decision of the heart. It was the right time in my life as well. I was ready for a change in my work. It didn’t feel like a hard decision to make,” Wilmot said. “It just fell into place.”

She moved from Burns Lake, and the couple married in Haida Gwaii in 2015. They have two cats and their dog Duncan, who Wilmot calls their “SPCA special.”

Having earned her nursing degree in 2011, Wilmot became a home care nurse in Rupert. After working in poverty reduction, she discovered she needed to work more directly with people. She felt the need to nurture her extroverted nature and made the switch.

Only a few days ago, Wilmot made another change and took on a new job: chronic disease educator.

“As you do your education and you go through your life and you try different things, you find something that works. I guess you hone into what you’re looking for, because you get to know yourself,” Wilmot said.

In her time as a home care nurse, she says she learned to never say no, anything is possible.

“I think it’s just remembering to be open-minded and curious about people’s experiences. People surprise you all the time, I think, with their resilience, what they’ve been through and what they’re able to cope with,” she said.

For the winter solstice, Wilmot put that idea to the test. She had just finished a 30-day yoga challenge in November, and next was a series of 108 sun salutations on the darkest day of the year.

“I was like, ‘I can’t do that!’ But I did. It reminds you of your strength and resiliency as a human but also teaches you about your body and teaches you compassion. It helps you cope with the challenges of the lives we all lead.”

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