Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Traveling Librarian Goes to Vancouver Public Library


In late June of this year, I took a train from Seattle to Vancouver, in southwest Canada. As a traveling librarian, I like to visit a library or two when I first visit a place. With the help of a friendly bus driver, I found the Central Library of Vancouver Public Library on the first day I was there. I spotted the distinctive curving fa├žade from several blocks away. Visitors to the Central Library are first greeted by a lively, sunlit space, officially known as “The Promenade.”

Along the left side of The Promenade, there were retail shops and a daycare for children and to the right, the entrance to the Library proper. The variety of programming throughout the Vancouver library system was advertised on flyers that covered a cube, which was about six feet on each side, as one approached the entrance.

I went to the Lower Level to see the Children’s Story Room, which felt the way I imagine a Pueblo Indian kiva might feel, with its circular shape and light from a polygon of glass above the center of the ceiling. The acoustics seemed perfect for storytelling. On my way to the Special Collections room on Level 7, I saw a little of the other floors which held an abundance of books and many places to sit and read. It was late on a Monday afternoon and the place was packed with people, but was not noisy. I found more information about the Central Library in the Special Collections room and saw a display of some of the images from the collection of historical photographs of the region. Just over the rail beside the table where I sat at was an open space that reached down to the ground floor. A multi-storied Reading Arcade, with tables and chairs and readers, curved along the exterior wall.

The Central Library, located in downtown Vancouver, was built in 1995 and it currently holds 1.3 million items. I found this library to be an example of an amazing building that seemed to work well for people, while also being an inspiring space.

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