The days of trying to elbow your way in to study, research or check out books have been shelved as a new chapter in the library experience unfolds.
The doors to Vernon’s new library, featuring two floors of modern, open space boasting city-wide views and streams of natural light, open Saturday at 10 a.m. on the corner of 30th Avenue and 28th Street.
“We know that our customers are going to be very excited about this space,” said Maureen Curry, branch head librarian, as she beamed with pride while showing off the 30,000 square-foot facility.
With more than double the space of the old library, the new $12-million building ensures even more people can come through the doors to read, study, access the internet, meet and relax.
“Everything was all crammed in and we were tripping over each other,” said Curry of the old 13,000-square-foot library next to the museum, which had 850 to 1,000 people through its doors each day.
“This new library provides a space for people to come enjoy the library, even if they’re not checking out books.
“That’s what a library should be.”
As you enter the doorway to Vernon’s new library (or come up the elevator from the 35-stall underground parkade) a new and popular area featuring magazines, newspapers and a safe fireplace immediately welcomes you.
“This is designed for people who want to come in for a few minutes, such as office workers on their lunch break,” said Curry of the first of many new features of the building.
An information desk, customer accounts area and four self-check outs lie straight ahead, with drop boxes and shelves of books on hold.
Around the corner is where imaginations are fed in the kids area – featuring a story-time area, a pint-sized washroom, cloud shaped sound baffles on the ceiling and lights in the shape of birds.
“It’s one of the highlights of the whole building,” said Curry, adding that colourful art and furniture shaped like oversized open books are on route. “I know parents and children will love spending lots of time in this area because it’s so welcoming.”
Study tables for older kids, a children’s internet station, a young adults section of books with people-shaped loungers and cozy seating are more features of the first floor.
The open and inviting feel of the library is also extended into the washrooms, tucked behind the young-adult area.
“The public washrooms were designed to address some of the issues that were in the other branch,” said Curry as the old library washrooms were often abused by non-library customers.
Segregated staff space and a 125-person meeting room also flank the first floor of the library.
Up the window-lined stairs, a whole new level of library experiences are also opening Saturday.
Between the collections of fiction and non-fiction books, DVDs and CDs there are nine public internet stations around an opening to the first floor. Another computer lab with eight stations, and room to grow, is tucked in the back behind study tables, while another study space features pop-up plug-ins for those wanting to access the internet with their own laptops. Chairs flank each of the many window views, including a corner view of the new Polson Tower and the Allan Brooks Nature Centre.
“It’s a nice private, quiet space just to sit,” said Curry, while pointing out an outdoor xeriscape garden next to the window.
But it’s the north end of the second floor that Curry anticipates will be a popular spot.
Windows open the view of Justice Park and overlook the downtown core, while the northern exposure adds warmth and natural lighting.
“This is, I have to say, my favourite part of the whole library,” said Curry of the view-encompassing magazine and newspaper section, which has been expanded with more than 140 new titles.
Upstairs also features a free meeting room, with a corner view of the park and the new Nixon Wenger building, right next to Curry’s office.
Two aspects flow through the entire library – open space that is warm and welcoming, achieved through the use of wood and stone to provide texture.
“The old branch had a lot of wood and people always complimented on how warm and welcoming it was,” said Curry.
“We want people to feel they are welcome and can come here if they need to meet, study or read.”
While no food or drink is standard in libraries, the new library will permit water bottles and coffee containers with secure lids.
The spacious new building is an exciting chapter for all book lovers, library users and staff.
But it is also one that has been questioned by some, who aren’t convinced Vernon needed a new $12-million library in this technologically advanced day in age.
Curry doesn’t see any merit in those claims.
“Libraries have always been able to adapt and respond to changes in society and how information is obtained and delivered.”
Even in the advent of the internet and e-books, the library has brought such collections online and see these societal changes as a benefit to the power of the book.
“With the popularity of e-books, people are reading more in general. E-books provide another option – it’s enriching the library experience.”
But libraries aren’t just about books and information any longer.
And the new library reflects that with an abundance of space and seating to sit back, relax, catch up on some work or maybe even crack a book.
While the doors to Vernon’s new library don’t open until Saturday (10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), the outdoor book drops are open, next to three designated drop-off parking spaces on 28th Street.
Visit www.vernonmorningstar.com for a sneak peek inside the new library.