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Whistler library marks 10 years in its permanent facility

One of B.C.'s busiest libraries, the WPL has evolved in lockstep with the community



Like the rest of the resort community it serves, the Whistler Public Library (WPL) has weathered a sea of change since first opening its doors.

For years, the library called the basement of the former municipal hall home. When its lease expired in 1994, the WPL moved to a portable trailer that used to house the local Canada Post office. The library operated there until it relocated to its permanent Main Street facility in 2008, almost 10 years ago to the day.

"One of the things I was talking about with one of my staff member's today is how much an organization has to evolve when you go from being housed in an ATCO unit to a beautiful, LEED-certified building. It's significant," says library director Elizabeth Tracy.

What's perhaps been most remarkable about the cultural institution's evolution is its ability to march in lockstep with rapid changes in the community. The WPL has been a leader in technological innovation at a time when many other libraries across Canada are scrambling to keep up with the shifting needs of patrons who are increasingly going online for their information and entertainment.

"One of the things that we've been really focused on is making sure we're engaging the community to better understand how they use the library," Tracy says. "The blueprint for a library is different than it was even 10 years ago. And Whistler is different, too."

Among the more significant developments in recent years were the renovation and reorganization of its service area, an increase in hours, expanded wireless capabilities, and the elimination, last summer, of late fines.

There are more changes on the way as the WPL completes its space-needs assessment, which was developed through extensive public feedback last year. Tracy says the board is working with HCMA Architecture in Vancouver to design additional space that would allow patrons to do "some of the louder things they want to be doing" in the library. "For example, our quiet study has always been located adjacent to the children's area, which doesn't always work well, especially in a community with a lot of kids," she notes. The library is also considering ways to carve out additional meeting space and quiet "cozy" areas, Tracy says.

Phase 1 of that work is expected to begin sometimes in 2018, with the remaining upgrades slated for the next three to four years.

The WPL consistently ranks among the busiest libraries per capita in B.C., with 268,760 in-person visits in 2016, a five-per-cent increase from the previous year. The number of "virtual visits" to the WPL's redesigned website saw an even bigger jump, from 116,025 to 389,274 in 2016 — an increase of 236 per cent.

The library has circulated nearly 2 million items since opening its spacious 1,115-square-metre building a decade ago.

"Nothing we accomplish could be done without the amazing staff we have here at the library," Tracy says. "And none of us could maintain that (service) without the support we get from the community, the municipality and our board."

For more information, visit whistlerlibrary.com.


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