They say that good things come in small packages, which means that the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library’s (TNRL) newest branch must be very, very good indeed.
The Aberdeen Tiny Library had a soft opening at Aberdeen Mall in Kamloops on Nov. 22. Located near the food court, it’s open from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, and is small but perfectly formed, coming in at a cozy 352 square feet but still offering patrons a wide range of services.
Margo Schiller, Manager of Kamloops Libraries & Engagement for the TNRL, says that the branch — the first new library in Kamloops since 1974 — is in an area of Kamloops that is underserved when it comes to public libraries.
“It’s also the area in Kamloops where a large growth of population is anticipated, which are the main reasons why we’re really excited to be moving into the mall and piloting the tiny library.”
Because of the small space, the focus is on the collections and on holds pick-up. Schiller explains that the collections are the physical items — books, DVDs, CDs, even videogames — that people like to borrow.
“A huge focus of our tiny library is having a good selection of items for people to browse and see. Because it’s so small we’re focusing on the best and greatest items, like bestsellers and popular authors, while still providing access to other items through other TNRL branches and from other library systems in the province.”
That is where the holds system comes in. Patrons can order in items, which can be picked up when the branch is open. When it’s not open, but the mall is, patrons will be able to take advantage of a holds locker/vending machine that uses RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. In a first for the TNRL, all the materials at the branch have a chip on them, which patrons can scan in-branch to check out materials.
When using the holds locker, patrons will scan the code on their library card to open the locker, where items they have ordered will be stored. The locker reads the chip of any item that is removed, and checks it out to the card of the person who opened the locker. Eventually the locker will also function as a vending machine, with a selection of interesting items for patrons to browse when the branch is closed. Any items they decide to borrow will be checked out to their card.
Schiller says that because of its small size, the tiny library is the perfect location to test out the new RFID technology.
“It expands the time horizon that people can use the tiny library, so we’re piloting it there. If it works we can think of rolling it out in some of our other libraries. There would be challenges at larger libraries, but it could be easier at some of our smaller libraries, so we’re giving it a try right now. We’re asking ourselves ‘Do we really want to go down this path,’ so it’s a good test for that.”
On the ground in the tiny library is branch head Mike Brown, who has been with the TNRL for more than 15 years. The branch’s small size was not as difficult to adjust to as some might think: Brown has been with the TNRL’s mobile library in one capacity or another for more than 15 years, serving as its branch head for the last nine years and often driving the vehicle.
“It’s very similar in size to the mobile library,” he says of the new branch. “You probably get more on the mobile library because of more shelving, but they’re very similar in nature: small spaces, so we try to do the most we can.”
Brown says that the response to the tiny library in its first three days has been overwhelmingly positive. “Lots of people are excited to have service in this part of town, and they’re asking if it’s going to get bigger. We’ve had a few passers-by, but most people already knew about it.”
In addition to the holds locker/vending machine, Brown says there are some interactives coming for younger patrons, and a returns box is in place. He adds that while there is no patron computer and no seating inside the library, there is a staff computer for looking up items, and a very strong WiFi signal inside and outside the branch, for anyone with their own device.
Schiller says that the lease with Aberdeen Mall is for one year, with an option to extend it beyond that term. Asked if the size of the branch, or the hours it’s open, could expand, she says “As we go through and start to evaluate we’ll get a good sense of demand and usage. Those questions will be analyzed, and that will inform our next steps.”
A grand opening for the Aberdeen Tiny Library is planned for early 2024. For more information about the branch, and what else the TNRL has to offer, go to www.tnrl.ca.