British Columbia

Vancouver Public Library seeks public input on its future

What should a public library look like in 2020? That's the question the Vancouver Public Library is putting to Vancouverites in a round of public consultations it will use as a basis for its next three-year plan.

Last public consultation led to popular digital media lab

The last time VPL sought public input, the result was the downtown branch's popular digital Inspiration Lab. (Rishad Daroowala/Flickr)

What should a public library look like in 2020?

That's the question the Vancouver Public Library is putting to Vancouverites in a round of public consultations it will use as a basis for its next three-year plan.

VPL chief librarian Sandra Singh said the role of the public library remains to provide people with free access to information, but in the digital era, this means more than just books and internet access.

"There's still a real need for the library to pool the community's resources together to provide access to the information that individually we couldn't afford on our own," she told On the Coast host Gloria Mackarenko.

The library undertook a similar round of public consultations several years ago. The result was the central downtown branch's digital Inspiration Lab, which has become extremely popular since opening about a year ago.

"The city has really embraced it," Singh said. "Our recording booths and studios are completely booked up this weekend, and that's pretty typical."

Singh said the recording booths are used by everyone from musicians to amateur podcasters. The lab also has tools for digitizing analog media such as VHS tapes.

Physical assets still important

Singh still expects physical books to be an important part of VPL's work in the future. Although the market for digital books is growing, Singh said 80 per cent of all VPL loans are still physical.

And it's not just books — Singh said the library's physical space is one of its most in-demand resources.

"They're in demand, our quiet reading spaces and quiet working spaces," she said. "We [also] cannot meet the need for community organizing spaces and meeting spaces."

Singh said the central branch hopes to alleviate some of that demand when it expands into the eighth and ninth levels of its current building in the near future.

Public consultations will be held at the library's central branch in downtown Vancouver on April 17, 18 and 19. Those unable to attend can fill out a short online survey.

With files from CBC's On the Coast.

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