The proposed location of the new McBride and District Library
The proposed location of the new McBride and District Library

In my mind, a library conjures up a place that is quiet, with countless listings of all the books and articles available and their locations, and rows of student desks with students reading and making notes for later transcription into papers.

The image is of coloured tabs of paper (post it notes) being put into the books as the researcher locates the quote they were looking for. Later these books are to be packed home or to some other place on campus … a lady with horn rimmed glasses and a tight bun in her hair will give help if asked, but otherwise moves with the stealth and quiet of a kitten. Such are my memories of libraries past.

Compare that to McBride’s busy, active space with its 7,500 books, videos, and magazines. Envision a space where children are sitting in a boat listening to a story.

Another space which shares the photographs, skilled craft making, or art work, with students and visitors alike openly discussing the skills needed in this creation. Yet another area with adult students learning about employment skills. A librarian laughing and chatting openly with the patrons as they show them where things are. An author in another corner describing his journey as he shares both the written word and pictures.

Computer stations to find research material in libraries far away, while in the computer lab students noisily play games
On weekends there are scrabble tournaments, chess lessons, Zinio (Magazines available online) visiting authors, instructional programming for writers; during the week there’s the interaction with school librarians as both work together to hook the youngsters into reading programs. Here you can come for free online legal advice, youth drop in, increased computer access or community instruction.

Gone are the rows of Dewey decimal system card files learned and used in my youth.

Gone too are the Shhh signs. Now the library is an active buoyant activity space that is anything but quiet.

On October 16th the library gave a public presentation which revealed the impetus for moving to a larger building on Main Street.

Naomi Bella-Boudreau is McBride’s librarian who has overseen many of the new activities over the last year. She says while a potential new library space would expand the existing space from 3,000 to 7,000 square feet, it would only see an increase of perhaps 1000 additional books or movies. The rest of the space would be used for community activities which it is hoped would draw and attract more patrons.

The existing location of the McBride and District Library and Museum
The existing location of the McBride and District Library and Museum

Bella-Boudreau says new or expanded initiatives would include things like additional instructional opportunities such as the employment initiatives that are currently being held in the Annex portion of the library. This same space could be used at different times for things like small meetings and other library presentations. The new space would allow a larger museum display space, and have two empty adjacent lots. A locomotive and scale model of the old Round House Theatre are two ideas for what could be on display outside.

Marilyn Wheeler, chairperson for the Museum Society spoke about using some of the expanded space for larger travelling displays, as well as permanent displays both in dedicated areas and integrated into the library proper. In addition she spoke of the need for safe storage space for the many photographs and artifacts that are currently housed in basements all across town and needing to have a workroom in which to prepare the next shows.

William Clark, library building committee chairperson, said the new purpose built libraries in Whistler had come in at some 900+ dollars per square foot while Bowen Island and Salt Spring Islands new facilities came in anywhere from 400 to 900 dollars per square foot. This renovation of existing space in a relatively new building which is ideally located will be significantly less costly even when fully built out, at well under $200 per square feet. This figure includes the cost of the building, interior renovations and move to the new location.

The presentation reminded us that McBride’s first Reading Room was opened in 1913.

What an excellent reminder of the library’s centenary to see this move happen during 2013.