The Ashcroft Library will be closed from May 22 to mid-July, as renovations to the nearly 50-year-old building are carried out. When it reopens, patrons can expect to see a few changes, including a larger children’s area, more seating, and a “service extender” pilot project that is the first of its kind in B.C.
“It’s very exciting,” says Judy Moore, the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library’s (TNRL) head librarian, of the long-anticipated changes. Construction is expected to last for about six weeks, and the last day the library will be open is Saturday, May 21. A temporary drop-box will be available outside the library throughout construction, so that patrons can return materials. Items can also be returned to the Cache Creek library, which is where patron requests will be re-routed during construction.
Moore says that when the library reopens, patrons can expect to see a new and larger children’s area, which is being relocated to the west (back) wall of the library. An under-utilized space that was originally the branch head’s office and has more recently been used for storage will be incorporated into the children’s area, which will include new children’s interactives.
“They’re wall-mounted educational activity centres for kids, with puzzles and games for children under five years of age,” explains Moore. She adds that the space will also include Natural Pod play structures, which are manufactured in B.C. and are a first for the TNRL.
“They’re natural wood spaces for play and learning, and this is our pilot for this furniture, which we’re really excited about. We’ll be looking to roll it out to other libraries after this pilot.
“The children’s area will be a modern space, and a place where people want to spend time with their young ones.”
The renovations will create increased seating for patrons, including “bar seating” where people can read newspapers and magazines and bring their own laptops, which is a new feature. The technology at the library will be updated, including new computers, and the removal of the back wall and opening up of the current storage room will increase natural light throughout the library. There will be a new “brighter and lighter” colour scheme, as well as new furnishings that are in step with what the TNRL wants to see as a brand across all its libraries.
Possibly the biggest change at the library is another pilot: the service extender, which Moore says will dramatically increase public access to the library.
“It’s absolutely the first of its kind in B.C., and likely the first vendorless solution. It’s been created by the TNRL and IT technology support, and creates an opportunity for patrons to access the library outside regularly scheduled hours.”
Moore explains that while the downtown Kamloops library is open 52 hours a week, the Ashcroft branch is only open for 26 hours. The service extender will see Ashcroft patrons sign a user agreement; then, by using their library card and a PIN, they will be able to access the Ashcroft branch during all the hours that the downtown Kamloops branch is open, effectively doubling the number of hours the Ashcroft library is open.
“It will mean that Ashcroft patrons can use that branch until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and until 5 p.m. on Saturdays,” says Moore. “We’ll have their information, and it will be trust-based. I liken it to banks having an ATM in their vestibule, so that people can access banking services independently.
“Patrons will be able to use all parts of the library for study space, group meeting space, computers, and photocopies, and will be able to access material that’s being held for them. We will also have self-check, so people can check out holds and other library materials. A security system will be in place, and people will be made aware when the library is closing.”
The service extender idea emanated from Finland, and the Hamilton Public Library system in Ontario uses it in two rural libraries. Moore says that the TNRL approach was designed in-house at a low cost to create and extend service in rural libraries where the hours are limited, and Ashcroft seemed like the perfect place to pilot it.
“We have such terrific support for the library in Ashcroft, and it seemed like the perfect jumping-off point for the TNRL and the service.”
The service extender in Ashcroft will be monitored for proof of concept, and Moore thinks the service model would be desirable for all the TNRL’s community library locations.
“Savona is open 16 hours per week, so this would increase it to 52 hours. We know that in all our communities we’re a hub and an asset, and we want people to use the library at a time that suits them best. Library relevance in a community helps support community sustainability.
“The TNRL has a history of innovation, and this one is unique. We’re so excited about this and so proud of it. We think we’ve taken a problem and worked hard to hone a solution. We have an amazing team within the TNRD and we’ve worked through this with a very innovative opportunity to access service outside regular hours. We hope it will support all our residents who enjoy a library in their community.”