For Wendy Wright, the last few weeks of working at the Smithers Public Library (SPL) has felt as much like orchestrating an interactive game of Tetris as it has running a library.
That’s because a number of the building’s staff has been diligently working to rearrange and test out various furniture combinations to optimize traffic flows throughout the building.
“Our goal is to open on Tuesday August 4,” the SPL director told the Interior News, adding that, while the date is a target for the building, ultimately the final opening date will depend on when they receive a plexiglass order for their front desk.
“Our contractor who is going to install plexiglass around our circulation desk says that he can start as soon as it gets here, but we might have to wait a week, we might have to wait four weeks, it all depends on when he receives [it],” Wright explained.
She said that while the library has plans to open August 4, the services they offer will be somewhat different than normal, including suspending their live programming.
But despite a reduction in physical services, Wright said the library has experienced a significant increase in user access of their non-physical services, including e-books and audiobooks.
The library saw 6,289 instances of users taking out either of the above resources between Mar. 16 and July 3. In addition, they saw individuals take out 697 e-magazines and stream 98 different independent films.
Wright said there were no ifs, ands, or buts about it — the increase was due to people wanting to read.
“We have so many people [for whom] reading is a part of their lives, it’s a part of their routine and something that they value and suddenly they had no access to fresh material, so lots of people were trying it for the very first time.”
Wright added that the SPL has continued to offer many services throughout the pandemic including public internet access via their WiFi connection, which has stayed on 24-7 throughout the closure.
Wright said many people have made use of the connection, dropping by the benches near the library or sitting in their vehicles in the parking lot to access the internet. She added that they have ordered a booster to increase their signal, which is currently on its way to the library.
Like most libraries re-opening in the province, she said the building will not be offering seating upon reopening.
Despite the changes in services, Wright explained they are still looking at ways to facilitate user interaction with the library during the pandemic.
“We wont be able to allow people to come in and sit, read books or magazines or use the computer, but we did bring in an electrician today to look at providing more electricity to put an outlet on the patio side of the outside of the building so that people will be able to plug in their laptops out there and access our WiFi,” she explained.
Similarly, the library will be quarantining all returned books for 72 hours upon receiving them, Wright said.
Despite the changes in services, Wright also highlighted a number of services that the library would be offering, including two virtual programs made possible by a grant via the the Wetzin’Kwa Community Forest Corporation (WCFC).
As a result of the funding the SPL will be able to offer Zoom calls for their “volunteen” group (consisting of local teens who normally would meet at the library after hours to socialize and come up with ideas for the library’s in-person children’s programs).
They will also be able to bring back their “book lovers’ night out” program which gives local readers the chance to connect.
On top of this, Wright also recommended parents and children alike check out the the British Columbia Library Association’s (BCLA) for more information on the organization’s Summer Reading Club.