Ann Day is the chief librarian at the Creston and District Public Library.

Ann Day is the chief librarian at the Creston and District Public Library.

Creston librarian breaks down traditional walls

Web Lead

  • Oct. 2, 2011 7:00 a.m.

A column published in the Creston Valley Advance and posted near the entrance of the Creston and District Public Library expresses an opinion shared by many Creston Valley residents. “What a difference a Day makes” is its title. A sign inside Ann Day’s office indicates the chief librarian has a sense of humour and a passion for public libraries, too. “We dont nead no stinkin libury in Creston. Voat no!” She didn’t create the sign, a tongue-in-cheek response to a referendum to build a new library that was defeated long before she arrived in town. It serves as a reminder, though, that those who believe in public libraries should never take them for granted.

“I hadn’t even been to Creston, though I was raised in Kelowna,” Day recalls when asked about her arrival six years ago.

Her path to the Kootenays and the job running one of the province’s most-used libraries was a meandering one. After earning a bachelor of arts degree as a young woman, she succumbed to the lure of Canada’s North, where she worked as a cook in small, isolated communities and camps. Eventually, she tired of working long days at low wages and pursued a Master of Library and Information Studies degree at the University of British Columbia. She applied her newly-acquired skills for two years in Barrow, Alaska before being interviewed for the Creston job.

“You know how something happens and you know it is meant to be?” she asked. “That’s the way my visit for the interview went. Everyone I met was wonderful.”

Day arrived as the library was about to relocate from a dark, dingy, leaky building that had once been a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall. She was tasked with planning a move to spacious, relatively new premises, the former public health unit that was deemed unnecessary to Interior Health’s needs.

“I had to think ahead,” she recalls. “I wanted the community to be part of creating this library and I got as many people involved in the move as possible.”

She haunted Gleaners, a non-profit recycling store, for furniture and hired local artisans and contractors to build desks, shelves and other furnishings. And she brought artists into the process — James McDowell and Sandy Kunze teamed up to paint a mural in the public washroom. Art has played a major part in the library ever since, with regular displays being shown in the facility’s public meeting room. Donated and loaned art is scattered throughout the building.

Today, more than five years later, Creston and District Public Library has become exactly what Day envisioned. It’s a community hub, where residents and visitors congregate, but not only to borrow books. They attend meetings, musical performances, use computers (and get lessons on their use when they need them), swap ideas at book clubs, drop off their kids for reading programs, peruse periodicals, browse the large collection of CDs and DVDs and attend occasional nights at the opera, in which a local volunteer introduces the video presentation before it is projected onto a screen. The community band even practices in the building.

Since spring, patrons have also enjoyed the use of the Lawrence Lavender Reading Garden, a Creston Rotary Club and Friends of the Library project constructed to honour the memory of the man who was instrumental in bringing Day to Creston. Lawrence Lavender served as president of the Creston library board, as well as provincial and national library bodies.

Key to encouraging literacy and lifelong learning is to make a public library welcoming and confortable, Day says. She is quick to credit a friendly staff and remarkable group of volunteers, including the tireless fundraisers of the Friends of the Library, and a supportive board for the role each play.

“I wanted to create an environment on a human level, one with bright colours that give it a distinctive personality,” she says. “This is a place where you can sit and breathe.”

While there is a distinct meditative quality to the building, it is anything but quiet. Day, to be sure, is not The Music Man’s Marion the Librarian. Harry Potter eyeglasses and voracious appetite for information aside, there is little of the stereotypical librarian in Day.

She’s sociable and welcoming, and chances are the first sound a visitor to Creston and District Public Library is the chief librarian’s laughter. She takes her work seriously and herself lightly, an attitude that has helped her create a vibrant, lively atmosphere that Creston Valley residents and visitors have clearly come to enjoy.