Everyone who uses a library – which in the Fraser Valley Regional Library system is more than 330,000 people – knows that the last few months have been tough.
But cardholders can rejoice, as the libraries are now lending out books again! Soon, if all goes well in the fight against COVID-19, we’ll even be able to browse, to take kids to storytime events, to have gatherings or just to sit and quietly read.
The return of the libraries also reminds us that we have outgrown the ones we have.
We noted in an Advance Times story last year that growth in people using the library was even faster than the growth of population in FVRL communities such as Langley, Maple Ridge, and Abbotsford. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of cardholders jumped by 24.1 per cent.
Yet as of last year, the FVRL spent about a third less on new items and books than the Vancouver Public Library system – despite the fact that the VPL actually serves a smaller population.
For our fast-growing communities, we need more books, more DVDs, more reference materials and computer terminals and ukuleles and robots. (Yes, you can check out a robot.)
We also need more library branches. Langley Township and the FVRL have been looking at possible sites in Willoughby, which currently has no library to call its own. The Muriel Arnason Library in the Township Civic Facility building is on the far southern edge of the community. Libraries in Walnut Grove, Brookswood, Aldergrove, and other communities haven’t expanded for years, and some of them could likely use some new space, staff, and resources.
As we come out of the COVID-19 physical distancing, we’re still facing heavy economic fallout. For families feeling the financial pinch, public amenities become even more necessary. For our physical health, that means parks and playgrounds. For our mental health, for our education, and for the joy of reading, it means libraries.