Library visits grew in 2016, but expected to level off this year 

Whistler Public Library annual report presented to Committee of the Whole

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - Book Keeping Whistler Public Library staff present to council at a recent Committee of the Whole meeting.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • Book Keeping Whistler Public Library staff present to council at a recent Committee of the Whole meeting.

The Whistler Public Library (WPL) continued to grow in 2016, according to the WPL's annual report — from 256,511 in-person visits in 2015 to 268,760 the following year — but visitation is expected to level off in 2017.

"I can already tell you that we are likely to see much lower numbers for 2017; I think that the kind of changes that are happening in our community are significantly impacting the newcomer visitation in this part of the year," said WPL director Elizabeth Tracy in a presentation to the Committee of the Whole on Nov. 21.

In a normal year, the WPL would see about 800 people coming through the door every day, Tracy said, noting that this year, that number is closer to 600.

"It's a big change, but we never expected to continue on a trajectory of having such tremendous growth every single year," she said.

The biggest increase came in the number of "virtual visits" to the WPL's new website, from 116,025 in 2015 to 389,274 in 2016 — a jump of 236 per cent.

"I'm really, really proud of the feedback that we got on (the new site)," Tracy said.

"I think now we have a site that's representative of what the library space is, and not just something that's completely independent of that. It looks and feels like you feel when you come inside."

The WPL also does benchmarking with other libraries in the province to see how they stack up.

In comparison to libraries in Terrace, Cranbrook, Penticton and Fort St. John, the WPL boasted more cardholders (per residents of the community), average circulation per item, new items, annual visits, days open and adult program attendance, but was behind the other libraries in terms of eBook and eAudio book circulation, adult outreach, young adult programs and summer reading registration.

The WPL is at the end of an ambitious strategic plan that included a reorganization of roles and departments, more hours of service, expanded wireless capabilities and the elimination of late fines (to name just a few).

One outcome of the plan was the WPL's inclusion in the Cultural Connector, which joins Whistler's most significant cultural facilities (the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, Lost Lake PassivHaus, Audain Art Museum, Maury Young Arts Centre, and the Whistler Museum).

The WPL introduced the "Cultural Connector Pass" in 2016, which gives any cardholder access to the facilities for free.

The pass currently has 117 holds on it, meaning anyone waiting to get their hands on one might be waiting awhile.

"We have gone to the group and asked if they would be willing to issue a few more passes to offset that, because clearly the desire is there," Tracy said.

The 2018 to 2021 strategic plan will likely be reduced in scale, she added.

"We'll be eating the elephant one bite at a time," she said.

"So we may not look as ambitious this time, because we probably will have a couple of projects a year versus five or six or seven or eight."

The WPL's total expenditures in 2016 were $1,095,287. It received $1,090,080 in municipal funding and $169,927 in revenue and grants (excluding donations and third-party fundraising).

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