I haven’t always been a librarian, but I’ve always loved libraries, and throughout my life and travels in Canada and around the world, I have always made a point of seeking out the local libraries.
My favourite libraries are not the world famous landmarks — the Bodleian, the New York Public Library, Vancouver’s Central Library. I like the small, community libraries, with their local flavours and idiosyncrasies, and their unique solutions to basic challenges.
In Invermere, for example, the library is housed in a former RCMP building, and what was a holding cell has been transformed into a cozy reading nook.
In Vancouver Public Library’s Strathcona Branch, which doubles as a public library and inner city school library, students are assigned to take care of the fish aquariums, and the occasional grey blur indicates that the library cat is making a run for her favourite hiding place.
I’ve never visited Glendale, Ariz., but read recently that their library features a drive-through window for picking up holds and other basic services.
In my wife’s hometown of Can Tho, Vietnam, the library has a lovely outdoor shaded area where ice cold drinks are sold, a cool refuge in a hot and dusty city.
A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to the new library in Vernon, my old hometown. Taking up two floors of a brand new building, the library was spacious and well organized, and had all of the amenities one would expect in a well-funded modern library branch.
I came away, however, feeling that something was missing. It was too sterile, too cookie-cutter. It didn’t reflect anything about the community or the people that live there.
It seems that the more libraries I visit, the more I appreciate our library, with its colourful walls and artwork, plants everywhere, and lovely back garden. It’s friendly and welcoming and idiosyncratic — a place that truly reflects this valley and its inhabitants. I would be remiss if I did not give credit to my predecessor, Ann Day, for her vision and artistic sensibility in helping to develop our library’s unique identity and character.
That said, we have a number of improvements to the facility planned for this year and next, some of which have already been instituted.
Improvements already started include increasing the number of free public Internet stations, including dedicated children’s computers (scheduled for next year), installing a higher-quality ceiling-mounted projector in the meeting room (thanks to the Friends of the Library), and building a new teen space/casual meeting area (designed by our Teen Advisory Council and made possible by a Columbia Basin Trust grant).
Over the next couple of months, we expect to replace the green couch by the back window, add a drinking fountain and install an additional washroom in what is currently the audiovisual room (the AV room will be moved to a vacant office). Most of these improvements are the result of a series of public strategic planning consultations we conducted earlier this year. We asked you what you wanted to see in the library, and now we are making the changes. You can read the entire document, including other facility improvements not mentioned here, on our website.
The library is one of the few truly public places remaining in our society, a place that welcomes everyone without prejudice, and where folks of all ages and economic backgrounds have an equal voice. This is your library, and your opinion counts here.
What else can we do to make the library a better place and more reflective of our community? I would love to hear your ideas and feedback. Send me an email at email@example.com, leave a comment in our suggestion box or come by and ask to speak with me.
Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at the Creston and District Public Library.