Smithers Public Library director Wendy Wright and board co-chair Corry Tremblay.

Library staff have big ideas for Smithers cultural centre

The Smithers Public Library building is limiting its ability to expand but staff have big ideas for a planned new cultural centre.

The team behind the Smithers Public Library says the sky’s the limit when it comes to what the facility could achieve for its community but, for now, bricks and mortar are keeping a lid on their big ambitions.

Library board co-chair Corry Tremblay and director Wendy Wright say the local library could play a major role in community development if it had more room to expand.

Instead, they say the building is limiting the types of services the library can provide.

Shelves are bursting at their seams, forcing library staff to make do with some unusual cataloguing arrangements.

Children’s and adult’s nonfiction share the same spaces on shelves too tall for children to reach and wheels have been added to some shelves so they can be wheeled around to make more room.

The only place to host readings and public events is in the same communal space used by people who are trying to read and research.

Tremblay said the facility was in a “catch-22” situation.

“There’s lots of things we could offer but because we don’t have the space we can’t do them so then there’s some people that maybe aren’t interested because they think what we have to offer isn’t really what they want,” she said.

Efforts to secure funding for a new library started more than a decade ago and plans were drawn up, but the project was put on hold while the Town of Smithers shifted its focus to the construction of a second sheet of ice.

With the ice arena project now complete, town council last week announced it wants to build a new cultural centre as one of its strategic priorities for the period from 2015- 2018.

The building would be designed to house a number of organizations including the library, museum and

art gallery.

Dedicated meeting rooms, a quiet area, a separate space for teens, more display areas and places to sit are some of Wright and Tremblay’s hopes for the new facility.

They also hope to expand their digital literacy and technology programming, which Tremblay said was an increasingly important part of the library.

Now that the town has shown its support for a new building, the library is calling on the community to start sharing their ideas for the proposed space.

“One of the other jobs we have ahead of us is inspiring the community to let them know all the different possibilities for libraries and that it could be so much more than what it is,” said Wright.

“The next step would be hearing from the community which of those things they want to see here in Smithers and communicating all of that back to town council to make it a reality.”

Smithers mayor Taylor Bachrach outlined the vision for the new building when he announced it as part of the town’s list of strategic priorities.

“It’s about creating a civic space where the community can come together and not only engage in arts and culture activities but build community,” he said.

“I think right now the library provides a bit of a unique space in that regard, it’s open to everyone, there’s no cost to participate but it’s very small and it’s an old building so hopefully this strategy will help take that to the next level.”

 

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