A blink of an eye. That’s how quickly the last 20 years have passed since my first working day at the Creston Valley Public Library in July 1996. So quickly that it’s amazing to think of all the developments over that time!
Patience was certainly a requirement for staff and for patrons at that time. The Internet as a public resource was in its infancy. Instead, the shelves were full of print resources: Needed to write a high school paper on the planet Saturn without Google? Open a copy of the Canadian index, look up your topic and write down a list of the newspapers and magazines, with their dates of publication, then ask for them to be brought in by interlibrary loan. And hope you’re not in a hurry for that! Unlike today, where a request can make its way through a dozen libraries in a day, in the olden days the ILL connection would message one library a day.
A steady introduction of new technologies and formats entered the library over the years. We went from exclusively print books and magazines to music CDs and CD-ROMs to public Internet stations (remember that delightful dial-up screech?), then to DVDs, e-readers and a 24-hour Wi-Fi connection for your tablet or smartphone. (Thank goodness we now offer “User Friendly”, a drop-in tech help program every Saturday!) Finally, saying goodbye to the old physical card catalogue was difficult. I always loved opening the drawers of titles and authors, so full of potential entertaining and informative reading, flicking through the alphabetized cards to find that special book. But I didn’t mourn long; I can’t deny I’m pretty fond of the ease of the electronic version!
The development of the young adult section has been an exciting change. When I was a new patron to the library, one thing that struck me was how the YA collection was a measly one bay of books, consisting of mostly older fiction and classics. Now, it has grown enormously and is dominated by fantasy and post-apocalyptic series along with graphic novels, and is a delight to not-so-young adult readers as much as teens. And on the topic of youth, through the years I have had the pleasure of watching a countless number of junior patrons from story time and Summer Reading Club, and numerous student pages, embarking on new adventures in post-secondary education, travel, marriage and parenting.
But the most momentous event was, without a doubt, leaving the former library below the grain elevators 10 years ago for our current location. Ah, that small old building, with its highly unfashionable and somewhat aromatic 1970s carpeting, its mouldy and frequently flooded basement, my little windowless upstairs office. I miss… well, none of it. The joy of finally moving into our new digs, after years of trying to secure a decent building, was absolutely joyous. It led to one of my fondest memories where, upon moving in, I turned to see Lawrence Lavender, our magnificent board chair at the time, who had worked tirelessly to ensure we moved to a decent location, and both of us broke out into huge grins that radiated, “We finally did this!”
One thing that doesn’t change for me is that I feel the heart of the library is the collection. And what makes that heart beat are the patrons. The next 20 years will bring more new faces and changes to the library, and if I’m lucky, I will see them all.
Pat Tomasic is the team leader and longest serving employee at Creston Valley Public Library. She is currently reading Alys, Always by Harriet Lane.