Archive for July, 2011

The growing City of Surrey, east of Vancouver, Canada is charting a bold new future by investing in new capital projects, the development of a clean energy hub, establishing new business incubators, strengthening partnerships with local post-secondary institutions and the board of trade, and eliminating outdated city regulations and processes.

The centerpiece for Surrey’s new city centre will be a new 77,000 square foot library, next to a new city hall, and just a block away from Simon Fraser University’s local campus and a large hub for public transportation.  The City Centre Library was designed by the award-winning architect, Bing Thom.  An official grand opening ceremony set for September 24th.

This development will be a great example of how the presence of libraries have a positive impact on downtowns, commercial areas and neighborhoods.  Such impact is an important factor described in “Making Cities Stronger: public library contributions to local economic development” a report published by the Urban Libraries Council in 2007.

Even prior to the opening there strong evidence of the benefits of the partnerships emerging from Surrey’s economic investment plan and its new city centre.  For example, SFU’s Continuing Studies program has agreed to offer a wide range of courses at the City Centre Library.

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of the British Columbia Library Association.  The centenary was celebrated at the association’s annual conference in April.  A well written, beautifully illustrated history of library service in the province called “The Library Book” by Dave Obee was featured at book launch event during the conference.  This past weekend an interview Mr. Obee was aired on CBC radio’s popular weekend program, North by Northwest.  Here’s the podcast from July 17, 2011.

If you think the history of libraries might be kind of boring, well think again.  Obee captures some of the personal sacrifices and drama that occurred over the decades.  In one example, police arrived at a library wanting all the copies of Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer”.  The librarian stood her ground and wouldn’t hand them over.  Thank goodness.  Who knew. . . until now.

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The Anythink libraries are literally breaking new ground in their efforts at building community and developing partnerships.  At two locations, Commerce City and Perl Mack, community gardens are taking shape on plots just outside the libraries.  They were planned in partnership with Denver Urban Gardens.  Anythink’s goal is to focus 50% on food production and 50% on community building.  As focal points for the neighborhoods, there will be workdays that bring gardeners and passers-by together as well as discussion about sustainable gardening and what grows well and what doesn’t.  “Read, think, eat” is one heading in a recent library newsletter describing the project.  What better place but at the library?

The summer reading program at Anythink libraries has stepped away from the often-used model of providing participants with prizes and coupons from local merchants and fast food vendors.  Gone also are the tally sheets that track reading volume over the summer.  Their “My Summer” program is focused on learning and creativity based on the thinking that reading stimulates.  So it’s more about quality than quantity.  Of course the challenge for parents with kids in this or any program is to help develop realistic goals for the products of young, creative thinking and to support children in reaching those goals.  I think this model has greater potential than the more often-used ones, for enriching a child’s life experience based on the reading they do over the summer.

I look forward to watching how the Anythink libraries evolve and change over time.  They have challenged and disrupted (in a respectful way) many long-held public library conventions.  Their success may help lay the foundation for the survival of public libraries in the face of threats from diminishing relevance in the crowded “attention marketplace” of our current era.

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