They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but a lot of readers have been quick to pass judgement on the library renovations downtown.
The Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Harbourfront branch re-opened last month after a major interior redesign. According to the library, the collection of books was trimmed from 50,000 to 45,000, but some patrons suggest the reduction was more significant than that and have gone so far as to circulate a petition in protest. Certainly the space has become a lot more, well, spacious.
Though we think the complaints are exaggerated, we’re encouraged that patrons feel protective about their library – it shows that a connection exists with this important public institution. And it indicates that there should have been a greater level of community consultation, and if not in this instance, then certainly in the future.
While some readers don’t want their library to change, libraries must change. They must appeal to book lovers, while at the same time endeavouring to keep up with the times and remain relevant to residents. We know that libraries don’t serve the same purpose they once did, as different kinds of reading material is available on different kinds of platforms. What has remained, fortunately, is a love of reading, though we must do our very best to pass it on to the next generation and the next, and ensure that text messages don’t totally supersede the attraction of a good book.
Vancouver Island’s libraries proficiently balance these various challenges, and the regional book-sharing system is a major advantage in providing accessibility to materials. The book we want may not be on the shelf, but it isn’t far away.
The renovated library looks great. We hope the shelves will be filled, in time. But honestly, if we visit Nanaimo’s libraries and we can’t find anything to read, that is our failing, not theirs.