It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Library Any More

The public library has come a long way since it was first opened here nearly a century ago

I remember my first trip to a public library with great fondness. When I was seven or eight years old, my older brother (and sometime hero) decided that it was time I learned what a wonderful resource a public library could be.

On my first entry I was gobsmacked! I’d never seen so many books before! It was the mental equivalent of falling into a bowl of ice cream!

We wandered together through various subject areas and then into my favorite section, Fiction. Here my brother pointed out the children’s area (although with some childhood vanity I already thought of myself as beyond most of its offerings), mysteries, sports, adventure, and many others.

“Look at this,” he said enthusiastically. Scaramouche! And The Man in the Iron Mask! But I was already digging into a series of Tom Swift novels, and scanning the row of Hardy Boys mysteries for titles I had yet to read.

For the remainder of my childhood and on into adulthood, a library was central to my growing up, a place that serviced the blending of my education’s requirement for expanded stimulation, and also that provided thousands of hours of entertainment.

Books became the center of my life. Once a week for years I would walk down to the library on Thursday evening (the only evening it was open back then), return the four books I had read the previous week, and take out four more.

Here in Terrace the first public library was established in 1929 through the energy and foresight of two dynamic women: Cassie Hall, for whom the public school was named, and Kate Braun, whose family had founded a farm on the island that bears their name today. Over the decades the library moved several times (often into premises donated by civic-minded local businesses and service organizations).

Our library only found its current home in Lower Little Park in 1967, a construction reputedly funded, at least in part, by a Federal government grant in celebration of Canada’s centenniel year. The building has since been expanded and upgraded. It’s warm in winter and a cool, air-conditioned refuge in the summer’s heat. Further, it’s distribution of tall windows provides plenty of natural light.

Terrace’s library touts itself as “a safe place to learn stuff…neat stuff!” (While one might rue the inexactitude of the diction, there is a palpable excitement to the slogan made even more appealing by its truth.)

Although still largely a provider of print materials (books, periodicals, etc.), libraries like those of my youth have now been updated to provide a broader range of services. On the Terrace Public Library website (www.terracelibrary.ca) one finds a computerized catalogue (no more fussy cards and stamps), areas for finding featured books and new items, local history, and many other useful links.

The areas for children and youth feature reading challenges to encourage kids’ literacy development, a summer reading club for children below teen years, and even a “teddy bear sleep over” for the very young. Once children learn that the library is a safe, comfortable, fun place to be, they are likely to return again and again.

The website also features an e-library link to paid websites that assist patrons to find everything from small business and investment advice to digital magazines, legal information, audiobook downloads, government statistics, streaming videos, and more.

Under the “New Items” heading one can locate lists of new acquisitions by category, all of which were purchased by library staff during the past month. These include fiction and non-fiction titles, DVD’s, CD’s, graphic novels, magazines, and foreign language materials.

The library is now expanding its services into an area called “the library of things,” providing patrons opportunities to borrow various tools and devices such as portable musical instruments or sports equipment. An exciting key new acquisition has been a 3-D printer!

Our public library features comfortable and safe spaces for all kinds of useful, learning experiences. Check it out! And then, check something out. It’s not your grandmother’s library any more. Cassie Hall would be proud.

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