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Ashcroft Library opens with plenty of changes and more to come

Library will have first-in-B.C. ‘service extender’ to increase number of hours branch is open

After being closed since the May long weekend for a full interior renovation, the Ashcroft Library reopened on Aug. 17, giving patrons their first taste of the branch’s new look. And there’s more to come, with an exciting first-of-its-kind-in-B.C. initiative set to roll out later this year.

The branch is back to its regular hours of operation and providing all the usual services. However, Thompson-Nicola Regional Library (TNRL) Head Librarian Judy Moore says that regular patrons coming into the library will see that there’s still some work to do on the interior.

“We’re about 90 per cent done. We have to complete the signage, and we’re still minus some shelving, so the full collection isn’t out on the floor yet. The interior is going to have a rotating display of art by local artists, but we haven’t got there yet.”

It was the first major interior re-fit of the building, which opened in 1975. The exterior was renovated and updated in 2016, and Moore says that there will be a bit more work done to the exterior of the building, which is on the corner of Brink and Second.

“We anticipate that there’ll be some removal of rock for public seating outside, and we’ve removed the faded exterior sign over the door, and will be replacing it. Some new accent lighting will be added, and on the northeast side there will be a new ‘Open’ sign with the hours of operation.”

Moore says that patrons will see a much lighter, brighter library.

“It’s consistent with what people expect from a modern library. The emphasis is on collection merchandising to entice people to take items out, and face-out displays to show it off.”

One of the largest changes is to the children’s section, which has an expanded footprint and has been relocated to the southwest corner of the building, which was originally used as the branch head’s office and has more recently been used as a storage room. The change opened up 365-square-feet of public space, and the area has an installation of Natural Pod furniture. More play opportunities will come via a number of children’s interactives, which will be installed shortly.

Another major change is at the front of the library, where the former children’s area has been turned into a space where people can meet with others, sit and read, or use as a computer/study space.

“It’s more spacious, and has an expanded footprint for the public to use laptops,” says Moore. “Its sort of a computer bar area, with more opportunities for people to use their own devices and get connectivity. We also have a colour printer available for the public. It’s not new, but people might not have been aware we had it.”

The check-in/check-out desk has been moved to the back of the library and the librarians’ office has been removed, creating more public space. The meeting room at the back is unchanged; with access to washrooms and a small kitchen space, and exterior access, it’s available for people to book for meetings inside or outside regular hours.

Still to come at the branch is an innovation that Moore is very excited about introducing, not only to the TNRL but to the province.

“Prior to the grand reopening in late-September/early-October, we’ll be welcoming patrons to the TNRL’s first service extender,” says Moore. “This will enable patrons to visit the Ashcroft Library beyond its regularly scheduled hours, and will mirror the hours of the downtown library on Victoria Street in Kamloops.”

She explains that the Ashcroft branch is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, while the Victoria Street branch is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days. The service extender will allow patrons to access the Ashcroft branch during the same hours that Kamloops is open.

“Patrons will be able to check out items and use WiFi and the public computers and the library collections,” says Moore. “People can come in and do work, so it’s perfect for teenage students who need a quiet space. Also, if the regular hours aren’t convenient for people to pick up holds, they can pick them up at a more convenient time that suits them.”

Anyone wanting to take advantage of the service extender will need a valid library card. They will get a PIN that will be associated with that library card number and sign an agreement regarding the terms of usage. There will be no charge for the service.

Moore says that a security system will prevent people from accessing the branch outside the Kamloops hours. If someone is inside the library, there will be a staggered shutdown prior to closing time so that people will be prompted to leave.

“It’s the first time this service extender has been rolled out in B.C.,” says Moore. “It’s mirrored on another public library system in Canada, in Hamilton, Ontario, where they have a similar model in their rural libraries. It’s been very well received and there have been no issues whatsoever, so we’re not winging it.”

Moore is very proud of the fact that the service extender technology has been developed in-house by the TNRD’s IT department.

“It’s very costly when you’re considering vendor solutions, and the IT department was all ears when I proposed it. They love this kind of challenge.

“We’re lucky to have a really strong IT team. You can throw money at things if you’re a big system, and procure this type of solution through a vendor, but you have big fees and upgrades every year, so this is an amazing opportunity for us.

“It’s based on rural library practises specifically, so the service extender will be rolled out as we remodel our rural branches; Clearwater is next in line. And we could potentially not necessarily wait until we remodel, if we look for grants and funding to roll it out quicker in other locations.”

Moore says she thinks other library systems in B.C. will be looking to see how the service extender goes in Ashcroft.

“There’s something to being first on something like this, because our libraries are amazing community assets. It goes beyond the use of the collections, and places to study. They’re community meeting spaces, and this just makes them that much more accessible.”

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