While visitors to Whistler Public Library will know that a steady stream of bibliophiles can be found there on any given day, what they many not consider is that the numbers can sure add up.
The one-millionth visitor to the library since the new building opened in 2008 came through the doors with her family on Saturday (Jan. 28).
Whistler resident Noha Ahmed was visiting with her daughter Marriem, five, and son, Yassine, two-and-a-half, when her big number came up.
"It was such a surprise, it was like I was on Candid Camera!" Ahmed said. "I didn't know if it was a joke — and everyone in the library was clapping."
Her daughter was especially thrilled because it was her idea to go to the library instead of a movie.
The library's acting co-director Libby McKeever realized that their millionth visitor was pending as she planned to publicize the building's fourth birthday, on Jan. 26.
"A million visitors, it's phenomenal. It was quite serendipitous when I realized 'Wow! We're close!'" she said. "We do a gate count every day, but it was my husband who did the estimate that at around 700 visitors a day we were close."
Still, McKeever was busy and almost missed it.
"I have a very busy program on Saturday mornings, Singing With The Babies, and it was packed. I ran out when it was finished and I hoped I hadn't missed (the one-millionth visitor)," McKeever said.
She'd just made it in time when Ahmed came through the doors at around 12:30 p.m.
"Tina was helping people at the desk and trying to keep an eye on the gate and she suddenly yelled 'It's this one!'" McKeever said.
As the millionth visitor, the library gave Ahmed books for children and adults from the library, while local bookstore Armchair Books presented a gift certificate and a nonfiction book, The Tiger, by Vancouver writer John Valliant. She also got a large-scale laminated library card.
Ahmed's family moved to Whistler from Egypt three years ago when her husband, Yasser Saleh, became director of IT at The Four Seasons Resort after being transferred from Cairo. Ahmed, who works for Tourism Whistler, has a special fondness for the library and staff.
"It was the first thing that I visited with my kids when we moved to Whistler. It's my number one place. When I first arrived, my daughter was three and didn't know a word of English," Ahmed explained. "We went to the library story time and met Libby and she helped Miriam, and would talk to her directly."
Ahmed said McKeever would recommend books to read to her daughter and told her to read them to her in English and then translate them into Arabic.
As she was adding up the library's statistics in preparation for the fourth anniversary of the building, McKeever also learned that 693,334 items had been checked out in the last four years, using the library's collection of 52,000 books, magazines, and DVDs. The first library in Whistler opened in 1986.
By coincidence, January 27 was Family Literacy Day, capping off a very reader-friendly weekend.