Patron survey shows Invermere library squeezed for space

  • Sep. 6, 2014 8:00 a.m.

TIGHT SQUEEZE  The Invermere Public Library has the third smallest size-to-population served ratio out of all of B.C.'s 72 public libraries.
TIGHT SQUEEZE The Invermere Public Library has the third smallest size-to-population served ratio out of all of B.C.’s 72 public libraries.

By Steve Hubrecht

Pioneer Staff

The Invermere Public Librarys most recent patron survey underscored a desire for more space, while the most recent audit of the library highlighted problems with the buildings roofing, exterior windows and heating system.

We heard over and over again; needs more space, needs more space, space, space, said chief librarian Nicole Pawlak, speaking about the 2014 patron survey.

The library did the survey this past spring, after the library board voted during a strategic planning session to undertake more public consultation. The last time the library did a patron survey was some three to five years ago, according to Ms. Pawlak.

The library building is 2,500 square feet (238 square metres) in total, including the space for the book collection on the main floor, which is 1,300 square feet (120 square meters); a garage space which the library doesnt use; and space upstairs for washrooms, storage, a small staff room and Ms. Pawlaks office.

Whenever we develop a program or something else we want to do, we need to think quite carefully about where and how were going to do it, said Ms. Pawlak, recalling a recent workshop that had 17 people, each with laptops as well as projectors and the presenters barely cramming into the spot it was held in the library.

It was really tight quarters; people had to crane their necks to see, she said. We often have to cap registration for our programs and turn people away just to ensure we dont exceed capacity. We definitely make the best use of what we have, but size is a consideration when it comes to programming and to the size of our collection.

The library periodically needs to weed out older books from its collection of about 10,000 books, usually every six months to a year, that other libraries with more space would be able to hold on to, said Ms. Pawlak, adding that the library generates a report on how frequently books are borrowed and that if a certain book hasnt been borrowed in several years, it is pulled.

According to the 2012 B.C. public libraries statistics from DataB.C. (the most recent available as of press time), Invermeres public library served 8,867 people that year, held 15,017 volumes, had about 26.87 square metres for every 1,000 people served, and had an estimated 25,400 in-person visits.

I believe that the size of our library has an effect on our annual in-person visits, Ms. Pawlak said. Many other libraries that serve similar-sized populations with a larger space will have separate meeting areas and rooms where community groups can use the space for their programming.

All of the other four public libraries in the province that serve about 9,000 people have considerably more space, and most also have considerably more annual in-person visits. In 2012, the Grand Forks and District Public Library served 9,006 people, held 27,709 volumes, had a size of 540 square metres, or about 59.96 square metres for every 1,000 people served, and had an estimated 96,000 in-person visits almost four times the in-person visits of Invermeres library.

The Kimberley Public Library served 8,589 people, had an estimated 30,600 in-person visits, held 37,082 volumes, and had a size of 511 square metres, or about 59.49 square metres for every 1,000 people served. The Kitimat Public Library Association served 9,098 people, had an estimated 51,500 in-person visits, held 54,969 volumes, and had a size of 860 square metres, or about 94.53 square metres for every 1000 people served. The Trail and District Public Library served 9,061 people, had an estimated 49,750 in-person visits in 2012, held 52,766 volumes, and had a size of 522 square metres, or about 57.61 square metres for every 1,000 people served.

There are two other public libraries in B.C. that serve somewhat comparable, although certainly smaller populations of around 7,500 people the Smithers Public Library, which, in 2012, served 7,739 people, had an estimated 47,350 in-person visits, held 31,995 volumes, and had a size of 373 square metres, or about 48.23 square metres for every 1,000 people served; and the Vanderhoof Public Library, which served 7,570 people, had an estimated 31,000 in-person visits, held 20,843 volumes, and had a size of 616 square metres, or about 81.37 square metres for every 1,000 people served.

The Invermere librarys size to population-served ratio of 26.87 square metres for every 1,000 people served is the third smallest such figure out of all of the provinces 72 libraries. Only the Powell River Public Library (at 26.44 square metres for every 1,000 people served) and the Fort St. John Public Library Association (at 21.06 square metres for every 1,000 people served) offer less space on a per capita basis. In fact, only eight of B.C.s 72 libraries have a size to a population-served ratio of less than 40 square metres for every 1,000 people served.

The December 2012 audit of library (which is the most recent) rated the buildings exterior windows as poor, its heating unit as somewhere between fair and poor, and its roofing also as somewhere between fair and poor.

The windows are really old style. Theyre supposed to slide up and down, but several are painted shut, so we dont really open them, said Ms. Pawlak, adding several windows are actually opaque glass blocks and, during winter, quite a bit of condensation gets on them and drips down onto the books.

The furnaces are both old school oil furnaces and theres two of them, she said. The heating costs are fairly significant in terms of the budget we have.

The audit recommended replacing the heating units with new electric ones in the next three to five years, replacing the original wood exterior windows with thermally broken aluminum with sealed glazing units and replacing the current roofing material with SBS membrane.

No other aspects of the library building were problematic, achieving at least a rating of fair, according to the audit.

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