At the Whistler Public Library, 'change is our constant' 

How the resort's 'community living room' is staying ahead of the curve

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - GIVING BACK The Rotary Club of Whistler presents a cheque for $700 from its recent Pancake Breakfast to interim director Lindsey Debou, second from left, on Tuesday, July 21.
  • Photo submitted
  • GIVING BACK The Rotary Club of Whistler presents a cheque for $700 from its recent Pancake Breakfast to interim director Lindsey Debou, second from left, on Tuesday, July 21.

You may have noticed lots of changes at the Whistler Public Library (WPL) over the past year or so.

The front reception area has been reconfigured to remove barriers between staff and patrons, the digital collection continues to expand, and even the library's extensive event calendar has a new flavour to it.

It's all part of the continuing efforts to make Whistler's "community living room" as attractive and welcoming as possible to the thousands of people who stream through the library's doors each year.

And after so much change, don't think the library's board is content on resting on its laurels just yet.

"At the library, change is our constant," said interim director Lindsey Debou at a morning meeting with the Rotary Club of Whistler last Tuesday, July 21. "We're always going to be looking for new ways to inspire people."

While many libraries struggle to find ways to stay relevant in a world where fewer people are reading, Whistler's library has enjoyed continual growth in both visitation and circulation.

And it's done so by staying attuned to the needs of the community and its visitors, ensuring the library is "about more than just books," Debou said.

"A lot of the traffic we drive to our library is because of our programming," she added, noting that there were over 20,000 people who attended adult and children's events at the library last year.

A particular emphasis has been placed on building the slate of children's programming, with nearly 600 kids' events offered in 2014. Debou said the community can also expect to see more signature adult events, like live streams of TED Talks and engaging lectures by Quest University speakers, along with its regular programming.

With a thorough collection of DVDs, video games and music, not to mention its growing collection of e-books and audiobooks, the WPL is also staying ahead of the technological curve and, in many cases, serves as a way for patrons to build up their digital literacy.

"Libraries have been digital since the '70s, but our patrons haven't been and it's often a concern for people (over the size of) our digital collection," said Debou. "They're afraid that books are dying, Well, books aren't dying; we actually had an increase in book circulation last year as well as our circulation in electronic materials."

To that end the library recently began offering digital services like Hoopla and as a way for patrons to access electronic materials such as movies, music and audiobooks, as well as online courses on a wide range of topics.

The next step, Debou explained, is installing high-powered computers in the computer lab so guests can use software they might not have access to at home.

"We're going to be adapting our computer room to a quiet space, pulling all the computers out of that room and having more computers with more capacity," she said. "So if somebody wants to host an event and they don't have the software to make a poster, they can come to the library and use Adobe Photoshop, for instance."

The good news is one of B.C.'s busiest libraries is on pace to get even busier in 2015, Debou said, no doubt bolstered by the board's decision to extend the facility's hours in the spring. The library's annual visitation has climbed from 163,332 in 2003 to 245,000 last year.

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