Libraries across North America and beyond have changed, and the Sooke library is no exception.
They have become a place for the community to meet and play, to explore technology and learning, and, yes, to read.
Nathalie Jones, the children and youth librarian in Sooke said the days of libraries being a place where strict silence was enforced by a stern-faced, shushing, librarian are long gone.
“A library is a place for the community and we look to see what the people in the community want to see and try our best to accommodate those needs,” Jones said.
“We want an inclusive space that’s safe and community oriented. And we’re not all academic, there’s a leisure component that’s just as important.”
One needs only scan the list of Vancouver Island Regional Library activities to see the real-world results of that philosophy.
In Sooke, Jones has introduced activities as diverse and entertaining as one could imagine, including a giant Jenga challenge in which children compete and discover the best way to keep the Giant Jenga blocks from falling.
There’s also a chance to use tiny robots to translate one’s artistic bent into works of art. Library patrons can use their electronic devices to direct the mini Shero robots to paint canvases as they remotely test their creativity.
In another program, folks can learn about censorship during Freedom to Read Week by participating in a Breakout (Escape) activity in which the entire library becomes the site for an escape game.
“Technology also plays a big part in the services we provide. Of course, we have 19,000 E-books on offer and audio books available, but we also help people navigate technology challenges like understanding the Google Home device,” explained Jones.
“We explore OverDrive/Libby and we have our LittleBits and Code-a-pillar program where we delve into coding, computers, and all things technological. People can even ‘book a librarian’ for an hour to get help navigating their technological challenges as well as getting help researching all kinds of topics.”
That’s not to say that just reading a book has fallen out of fashion. Jones still hosts a weekly pyjama story time and a family storytime in programs intended to get families together to build on the love of a good story, combined with songs, movement, it’s just good old-fashioned fun.
“Libraries are going to keep changing,” said Jones.
“I can’t imagine what they’ll look like in 10 years, let alone 30 or 50 years. In a way, that’s what makes this job the greatest in the world. I get to help our clients explore and learn, and make the library into what they need. It’s very exciting and the library is increasingly an exciting place to visit.”
In Sooke, perhaps the biggest change of all will occur when the new library is finally completed on Lot A on Wadams Way.
“We’ll have a multipurpose room … our collection will increase three-fold … and we’ll have additional staff and space to provide even more activities,” said Jones.
“I can’t wait.”