On any given day, there’s a lineup at the front doors to the Whistler Public Library before the facility opens to the public, something that library staff never saw before the new library building opened on Jan. 26, 2008.
Many of them come to use the free public computers, or free wireless Internet, but stay to read magazines and newspapers, and take out books, movies, CDs, and video games.
“When we envisioned it, it was as a community living room, a kind of home away from home,” said Alix Nicoll, chair of the Whistler Public Library board of directors. “It’s everything we anticipated and wanted it to be.”
On Monday, Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. the board will celebrate the first anniversary of the library with tea and scones, the unveiling of a donor wall, and events to kick off Family Literacy Week.
It’s also a time to reflect on the past year, and to look forward to the future. In the fall, members of the community took part in strategic planning sessions to plot the future course of the library, and the results from those sessions will be presented in February.
“It’s been an absolutely incredible year,” said Nicoll. “Every month the (user) numbers seem to go up, and there are more people coming through the door. We’re adding new programs, like two new children’s programs, and we don’t seem to be able to do enough. We could open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and still have people coming in.”
The library board made a presentation to council in the fall with statistics, which Nicoll says are already dated. Since that presentation user numbers have increased significantly, including a record day with over 1,400 users. Only one day in February had less than 800 users, and the average is between 900 and 1,000 visits on a daily basis.
By way of comparison, the average was less than 300 at the previous library.
Keeping up with the demand will be a challenge, said Nicoll.
“We still have a lot of money to raise, and a lot of stuff to do,” she said. “We want to expand the collection, we need extra furniture, we need more computers.
“The fundraising committee sat down recently, and now we have a database… so we can fundraise and keep track of everything, and people can make donations online. We also have a foundation now, and have joined the Community Foundation of Whistler, so people can do things in different ways to contribute to the library.”
The building was completed for almost $12 million, more than the $7 million that was originally budgeted. The cost of construction materials and labour accounted for most of the additional cost. environmentally friendly features also added to the bill but should save money in the long run.
However, after a year in operation Nicoll says fewer people are questioning the cost of the 12,000 square foot space.
“At the start we were defensive about it, we could hardly believe it ourselves, but now people are recognizing that we’ve built a phenomenal community place,” said Nicoll.
All of the interior work, which was still underway at opening, has been finished.
The exterior landscaping is mostly finished, although there is still a space for a public art piece. The area behind the building could one day become a park, but for the near future the Whistler Museum and Archives will occupy the old library space.