Staff at the sole public library in Smithers, B.C. are purging classics by Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro just to free up shelves.

A recent event featuring a magician was so crowded that the library had to turn away three classrooms of kids.

And at a Truth and Reconciliation event last summer, staff had to move all the furniture from the reading area to the children's section.

Some guests stood at the circulation desk — about 10 metres away from the event.

"Claustrophobic. Teetering." That's how library director Wendy Wright describes the cramped 3,400-square-foot space.

"We are stacked right up to the ceiling." 

Smithers Public Library 2

Library director Wendy Wright says the current 3,400-square-foot building is "entirely inadequate." (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Arts and Culture Centre

The library opened in 1967 and has twice expanded. It needs 10,000 square feet of space to meet the demand.

Smithers has a population of 5,400 people. 

The town council is mulling plans for an Arts and Culture Centre that would house the library, art gallery, museum, radio station and visitor information centre in the town's historic Central Park.

A pre-feasibility study in June estimated the 33,000-square-foot building would cost $16.8 million, more than the $10 million budget allocated by council.

In September, council moved to consider a new option: building the new facilities in phases, starting with a combined library and art gallery at the current site.

The town will get input Thursday at a community forum. 

'It's a happy problem'

Wright said library circulation has surged by 30 per cent in the last few years. It also brings in items from other libraries in the region.

Last year, staff tossed out one third of the juvenile non-fiction collection so they could shelve it in the kids area. Until recently, the collection was filed along with adult books, Wright said.

"We had brand new books on current topics for kids and they have never ever been opened."  

There's also no teen section, meaning students congregate in the kids area. "You can just imagine a teen on a seat that's ten inches off the floor."

Still, Wright is thinking positively.

"In a way, it's a happy problem because the library is being so well used," she said.  

With files from Andrew Kurjata and CBC's Daybreak North