Library board members and staff celebrate the library’s anniversary. Over eighty people visited to mark the occasion, said Library Director Wendy Cinnamon. From left to right: Darryl Polyk, Ellen Duncan, Maureen Brownlee, Peter Takach, Hollie Blanchette, Kacie Harray, Giovanna Gislimberti, Wendy Cinnamon, Judy Holmin. Not pictured: board member Jan Vanderzwan. / ABIGAIL POPPLE

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

The Valemount Public Library Association celebrated its 60-year anniversary on March 6th.

The library has grown significantly from its beginnings as a book collection in Gwen Partridge’s kitchen, said board member Judy Holmin. A combination of grants and financial support from the Village, Regional District, and Province has helped the library evolve over the 20-plus years Holmin has been affiliated with the library, she said.

In 1988, the library moved into its current building at 1090A Main Street, built with money the Province raised from Expo 86, said Holmin. Since then, it’s undergone a number of changes: shortly before the 2000s, the library catalog moved from physical cards to an online database, and a lower level was added to the building 10 years ago, according to Library Director Wendy Cinnamon. 

Today, the library offers books, spaces to gather, and boasts an expansive non-traditional collection of items like a thermal camera, musical instruments, and snowshoes, said Cinnamon. Patrons can check out anything from novels to birdwatching gear. And if a book is not in Valemount’s collection, librarians can borrow it from elsewhere in the province using an inter-library loan system, she said.

Darryl Polyk, the chair of the library board, said he appreciates that the library is a place where individuals and organizations can spend time with one another. The lower level of the library can be booked for clubs to gather, or patrons can use it to give presentations or take video calls, he explained.

“We have a policy that if you’re charging for something, then you can’t use our space,” he said. “But otherwise, it’s open for everybody to come down and use it.”

Cinnamon and Polyk hope that the library can expand further to include a space for teenagers and other patrons looking for somewhere to socialize. The board is in the process of applying for a grant with Columbia Basin Trust to build a room where people can sit and talk, without having to use the lower level.

“Wendy came up with the analogy that right now, the library is like a takeout restaurant. You can come and get things, but you don’t hang out there,” Polyk said. “Whereas if we expand, we can become a dine-in restaurant where people can come and have casual places to sit and read and that type of stuff.”

Valemount residents told The Goat that they appreciate having the library as a way to meet people.

Brenda Funk, a resident of about three years, said that she uses the library as a space to host events and a way to make friends when she first moved to Valemount.

“I joined the book club because I was quite new,” she said. “And I’ve got grandchildren that live here, so I would bring them over for things that were going on. So I’ve gotten to know a lot more people by joining the library.”

Hannah McKirdy, an elementary school teacher, said she shares library events with her students, and regularly visits with her son and nephews.

“We love the library,” she said. “I teach Grades 2-3, and we’ve used the thermal camera a bunch for our science unit on heat […] It’s so awesome that there’s all of this stuff for the kids to use.”

The Library Association will continue celebrating its 60th anniversary throughout the year, said Polyk. Patrons are welcome to pitch ideas for clubs or library improvements to any board member, he said.

Cinnamon also hopes that residents bring new ideas forward, and that more people join the board.

“All the staff have been here a long time,” she said. “There’s not a lot of turnover and we’re all getting older, so we want to start getting new, fresh ideas.”