Although this is only my second summer residing in the beautiful Creston Valley, I have come to look forward to the annual pilgrimage of young people into the valley during cherry harvest season. I love the patter of French and Spanish at Extra Foods, folks gathered around a guitar on Canyon Street, the colourful clothes, impossible hairstyles, funky automobiles and, in general, the new energy and enthusiasm that these young people bring to our normally quiet town.
Of course, wherever large numbers of travellers congregate, the potential for conflict with locals rises. Litter piles up, public alcohol and drug consumption increase, kids are busted peeing (or worse!) in bushes, there are noise complaints, we get crowded out of our favourite swimming spots, and rumours of increased incidences of theft and vandalism proliferate.
Personally, I don’t hold a varied and disparate group of people responsible for the crimes or misdemeanours of a few. But, let’s be honest, too often it is innocent locals minding their own business — and who may receive, at most, indirect benefit from these hard workers’ labour — that are left to clean up the mess. Just last year, for instance, the library was targeted by vandals following a dispute with a particular orchardist.
Access to communication and information technology is vital to visitors travelling far from home — possibly for the first time in their lives — and the library is pleased to offer this access to visitors and residents alike. Equally important are access to public washrooms, clean water or just a cool place to rest after a hard morning’s work. Regardless of where a person is travelling from or how long they are staying, they are welcome to take their respite at the library.
The question is how we can effectively deal with the increased demands on library services and facilities while continuing to meet the expectations of our primary stakeholders, the long-term residents of the Creston Valley. Our approach attempts to combine pragmatism with smart planning, with a dash of good humour thrown in.
When redesigning the front exterior of the library, for example, we configured the seating specifically to reduce congestion around the front entrance. It was awkward asking library visitors to sit elsewhere when the only seats are right at the front entrance!
We also re-installed a sink and toilet in what had been the audio-video room (moved to another unused office space) to better meet demand during the peak season, and installed a drinking fountain in the front foyer, which is loved by local children and pickers alike. Multi-use furniture, such as a coffee table that can double as a bench, provides much-needed additional interior seating. We have also worked closely with our neighbours in the Regional District of Central Kootenay office next door to address their concerns.
Some of the most effective ways to address potential conflicts are the simplest, like providing additional garbage and recycling bins over the weekend. Some folks still choose to litter, but having sufficient garbage bins available has cut down on the amount of visible litter considerably.
We still have issues — smoking around the front entrance is one ongoing issue — and I very much appreciate those of you who have taken the time to voice your concerns to me or another staff member. I know that for each person who raises a concern, there are 20 others who agree but are too Canadian to speak up. If you have a concern, I encourage you to let us know so that we can fix it!
In the meantime, I am resolved to enjoy these annual few weeks of craziness. All too soon, everything will go back to normal, and we will have our quiet valley back to ourselves!
Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at the Creston and District Public Library.