library plans 

Library vision being developed by BCBC By Loreth Beswetherick If all goes smoothly, Whistler could see ground broken for the new municipal library building in the spring of 2001 with completion likely in 2003, but exactly where that building will go is still up in the air. The way things look now, the library could occupy part of a three-storey building — complete with underground parking — on land off Blackcomb Way between the Whistler Health Care Centre and the Brew House. That land is comprised of two lots. One of them, Lot 1, has always been designated for some sort of library, museum and cultural-type facility in the Official Community Plan. The municipality then boosted the parcel by acquiring the adjacent triangular Lot 9 about three years ago for just under $1 million. Although it is an ideal central location for the new library building, there is still a chance the valuable vacant land could be used for something else. The municipality has retained the services of the B.C. Building Corporation to manage and develop the library plans. The RMOW is, however, also considering expanding BCBC's role to include brainstorming for other possible uses for the property and that process could incorporate other municipal land in the village. Kristi Wells, council's representative on the Whistler Public Library board, said the board is aware of this, however, conceptual planning is going ahead as if Lot 1/9 were to be the location. "The reality is, when you are looking at the overall picture of what is left in Whistler land-wise and what Whistler still needs from a community infrastructure or amenity point of view — why shouldn't we think about putting everything on the table and think perhaps, that something else should go there and the library should go somewhere else in the village," said Wells. "There are these two parallel processes going on. The library knows we are doing this brainstorming but they also know they are going to get a building and it is going to be in the village and it is going to be above ground," said Wells. "So, as far as we are all thinking right now, that is where the library is going to go and we are going to do plans and thoughts and designs and building specifications and all the rest based on that site." Wells said, from both a council and a library point of view, she wouldn't like to see the library plans stalled because the municipality can't make up its mind about the Lot 1/9 site. Wells said BCBC was brought on board because there were funds budgeted this year to plan for a new library building but municipal staff time was at a premium. BCBC, she said, has the expertise, vision and staff available to handle the project. The government corporation has been officially retained for the library complex but their involvement in a parallel visioning process has not been firmed up yet, said Wells. She said BCBC has no vested interest and can be neutral, fresh and objective when it comes to visioning. "They can look at every potential and say things like, hey, what if you took the Marketplace parking lot, put all the parking underground and stuck a building in the middle? Or, what if you move municipal hall to Lot 1 and then you have that whole spot? They are looking at all the 'what ifs'. We are really brainstorming thoroughly." Wells said she would be really surprised if any specific direction was taken before the November municipal election. "I don't think it would be appropriate either. It's such a long-term kind of thing it might not be best for this council to commit to a course of action and say let's put in a roller rink or something," she said. "It will be curious to see what evolves on that lot. My opinions are very different from someone else's and what staff think. There's just not a lot of land left in Whistler and you have got to look down the road." In the meantime, the municipality has set aside $2.5 million to go toward a library building. The library board last met with BCBC July 28. Library director Joan Richoz said they discussed plans in very broad terms. "We did a visioning process of what we want the library to be and to have." Richoz said the 1994 Lord report recommended a 10,000 square foot library space but population projections have now been surpassed and the nature of the library use has changed. "We are getting two people coming into the library to browse as opposed to one person who borrows a book and that just tells you there are a lot of people in here all the time who aren't necessarily taking books out but are using the books or the resources in the library and they need places to be. We need a lot more space," said Richoz. "Sometimes there are people sitting in the floors in the aisles." The library currently has 2,300 sq. ft. of space in its parking lot trailer and between 200 to 300 visitors per day. Richoz said when a new library opens, circulation alone almost doubles. "We haven't done specific projections but it will definitely increase by at least 25 to 50 per cent. For one thing there is going to be a lot more space for people," she said. "We want to make the library really comfortable and inviting and maybe have an atrium area that would have sofas and chairs to encourage people to stay in the library and read the magazines and the newspapers — to make it welcoming and really keep that community feeling." Richoz said BCBC should have some conceptual designs and artist's renderings ready by the end of the fall. "I say conceptual because they will probably not even include the outside of the building. It is very likely it will be a three-storey building and we would be on the main floor, but what goes on the other two floors, I don't know. Given how expensive land is in Lands North, a one story building just doesn't make sense." Richoz said fund-raising will likely get underway in the latter half of the year 2000. "We would have liked to start at the beginning of the year but we won't be ready." Wells said the Lord report pegged the cost of a new library/museum building at $5 million. How the balance of the funding will be raised has not yet been decided. Wells said everything from single donations to public/private partnership will be considered. "I mean, we will name it after Microsoft if they want to pay for it. There's no pride problem with the library board from that point of view. From my personal perspective I am really hoping that the fund-raising will be more corporate in nature. I think a library is a very appropriate place for that kind of funding."

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