Community flocks to Whistler Public Library opening 

New building offers new possibilities to library programmers

click to enlarge Red Tape Mayor Ken Melamed and library chair, Alix Nicoll, officially opened the new library on Saturday. Photo by Ian Robertson,
  • Red Tape Mayor Ken Melamed and library chair, Alix Nicoll, officially opened the new library on Saturday. Photo by Ian Robertson,

Whistler has seen its share of ribbon cuttings in recent years, but few events have attracted as much attention as the opening of the Whistler Public Library this past Saturday, Jan. 26.

The ceremony started outside, with a crowd of more than 300 people waiting to get their first glimpse of the inside of the building. Mayor Ken Melamed and library board chair Alix Nicoll did the honours cutting the ribbon, then invited the public inside for speeches, refreshments, music, a performance by the Short Skirt Theatre, readings by locals authors, and a tour of the facility. A steady stream of people took out new library cards at the front desk, while community members took out thousands of books, CDs, and DVDs using the new scanner and radio tags system.

It’s been almost 22 years since Joan Richoz started the first public library in the basement of municipal hall, before the facility moved into a pair of trailers off of Main Street. Although trailers were supposed to be temporary until the library could build a permanent facility, that proved more challenging than expected. At last, in 2004 the sitting council approved a new library building on the lot beside the existing library, for a $7 million price tag. With construction costs soaring across B.C. due to the stiff competition for workers and materials, however, the final cost will be over $11 million.

Part of the blame has been assumed by members of the previous council that approved the library under a construction management model that allowed local companies to bid on aspects of the construction, rather than the fixed price model recommended by municipal staff. With the construction boom, the bids attracted less interest and competition than council expected.

In his speech to open the library, Melamed acknowledged that it was a challenging project but praised the final outcome.

“It’s been a long time coming, but I think you’ll feel it’s been worth the wait,” he said, giving credit to past councils and community members that made the library a reality. “It’s been 15 years of work to get a permanent facility…This council is the one that gets to cut the ribbon, but we wouldn’t be here without the work of past councils.”

The mayor also took the opportunity to defend the project and project managers from past criticisms, noting that it takes thick skin and perseverance to get a project this big and complicated off the ground.


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