The Pemberton and District Library has been given a facelift thanks largely to community fundraising.
In an effort to create more space and adapt to the needs of patrons, the library's front entrance has been redesigned, shelving has been reconfigured, and dedicated spaces for computing and studying have been created.
The busy library—which has operated out of the same Cottonwood Street building for the past decade—has also received new carpeting and a fresh paint job.
In 2018, the library received about 88,000 visitors, and administrators said the changes will allow it to host larger events, such as public talks and movie nights.
According to Judith Walton—chair of the library board—the library continues to serve as an important "hub of the community."
She attributes some of its popularity to Pemberton's new condominium and apartment developments. "If (people) are in a small place to live, they come to us to have a bit more space (to) do their computer work or do their work," said Walton. "They can get a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate. It just (provides) a bit more space for them."
The new, dedicated computing area will also provide more privacy, as a few of the terminals will have glass on either side of them.
The renovations, which occurred in two phases beginning this summer, recently wrapped up. They were made possible thanks to a $40,000 donation from the Whistler Backcomb Foundation, $30,000 from Friends of the Library (a volunteer group that advocates and fundraises for the library), $35,000 from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, and $13,300 from an Oktoberfest event organized by the library board.
According to library director Emma Gillis, despite some gains, internet connectivity remains a "massive ongoing issue" in Pemberton, and the library is a go-to spot for many area residents looking to log on.
Gillis said that residents of one of the new downtown developments were unable to set up internet for several months after moving into their building, leading many to come to the library to work. "We really noticed it in the library, because we were basically the place where people were having to come to work," she said.
Staff spends a "large chunk" of its time assisting the public with internet-related tasks. "It's just the way things are now," explained Gillis.
"Everything is online, and we want to provide a welcoming space where people aren't scared to come and ask for help for something."
It's one of the reasons the library offers patrons the opportunity to book one-on-one computer training sessions with staff.
"We want to make sure everyone is getting equitable access to the services and resources they need access to, and that requires us as a staff to remain well trained, so we can help with these things," said Gillis.
Walton added that funding for additional staffing would be helpful, citing the fact that Pemberton does not have a Service Canada Centre, which also adds to the workload of staff.
"Because there is no Service Canada here, (staff are) often helping people trying to get their (unemployment insurance) or their (Canada Pension Plan), and that's kind of not library stuff," said Walton. "(On one occasion, staff) spent six hours helping somebody sort it all out," she explained.
With a frustrating lack of after-school options in Pemberton, the library is also helping out in the childcare department, adding programming aimed at younger students.
"We have added a couple extra programs just trying to cater for after-school programming, because there is definitely a need for after-school activities," said Gillis, adding that, going forward, she is looking forward to seeing the library grow with the community and respond to its specific needs.
"I just want to see us continue to grow, and for the community to continue to support us, and to keep communicating with us about what they want and need," she said.