BC Public Libraries: A Joy to Visit

I had the pleasure of visiting the Kitsilano branch of the Vancouver Public Library last year in June. The branch was closed in February for one month while major renovations were performed and the results are lovely. The atmosphere is bright, spacious, and welcoming. In a large space with white walls, wood laminate flooring, and a beautiful original wooden art construct over the circulation desk, the books and people are the splashes of colour. This library has an average circulation of 30,000 books a month, something a high school librarian can only dream of, and anecdotal evidence (my brother) indicates that this library is well-used, and a vital part of the community, where everyone is welcome.

Signage is excellent: simple, colourful, and plentiful. Branding is throughout the library, also simple and colourful. The architect did a wonderful balancing act of listening to both the board of administrators and the librarian, and so when wooden floors were installed, sound baffling was also added in the ceiling. Bookshelves were moved out from walls and laid out in a visually appealing manner which encourages traffic to flow throughout the space, from front to back.

There are summer reading programs not just for children, but also for adults. The Battle of the Funny Books is an online vote with multiple copies of all the books available to read, and the gift-wrapped beach reading books are just waiting to be borrowed.

The staff are very welcoming, and cheerfully answered all of my questions and allowed me to take photos, with the discrete caveat not to photograph people.

The children’s section of the library is on the left of the entrance, easily supervised by the circulation desk, and is a popular draw. Activities are held throughout the year, and children of all ages are welcome to wander through this well-lit corner of the library.

The reference desk is located immediately beside the computer section of the library, and this allows a natural barrier between computer users and readers browsing the shelves. The magazine and newspaper shelves are located further back, using the bookshelves as a privacy barrier, even though the shelves are not that high, and allow a feeling of privacy without losing the ability to supervise…

These photographs do not do justice to the first impression when walking in the door to this delightful library. It is well-lit, but laid out so that direct sunlight never hits the books. Clean, simple lines, defined by windows, bookshelves and flooring. Noise level not too quiet, but not too loud, either. Children’s section easy to supervise. Computer section under control, with a printer a photocopier, and assistance at hand.  Fiction and non-fiction, DVDs, large-print materials, books, magazines, etc. all easy to locate and well indicated. Truly, a librarian’s dream library.