Walk into Chilliwack Library and the changes are instantly noticeable.
No longer a claustrophobic information overload, the downtown library is now more akin to an open space retail bookshop.
Complete with comfy seating and other aesthetically pleasing accents.
“Before when you walked in, you were met by a wall,” said librarian Smitty Miller.
“We’re really trying to make it more accessible … more inviting.”
In the last year, Miller and her staff have transformed the library into a more welcoming space.
“Unsightly” barriers at the front door, including the community bulletin board and self checkouts, have been removed and or relocated. A multi-leveled shelf, featuring new releases , has been added – with book fronts facing out rather than the old-school display of spines.
And the cherry on top:
Two café style chairs, separated by a coffee table in the shape of stacked books, strategically placed at the front entrance.
The only thing missing is a cup of Joe.
“This is what people want,” said Miller. “They want to be able to browse, they want suggestions, they want to be in and out.
“It’s retail ad nauseam.”
All signage, some of which used to be hand-written, has been replaced with the FVRL brand.
New furniture was purchased from outlets that supply coffee and bookstore chains, rather than library suppliers. Tiered display tables offer suggestions of books, DVDs, magazines and more. There’s even a shelf of “grab-and-go” bags for the in-and-out customers.
The children’s section was brightened up with new furniture. A laptop bar was installed at the back of the library. The old study carrels were removed. And there’s plans to incorporate a meeting room in the future.
It’s all in an effort of “taking customer service to the next level.”
“We want the library to be such a good experience that people will want to keep coming back,” said Miller. “We can’t just sit and wait for people to come, not in the modern world, where there’s so much out there competing for attention.
“I have a really easy product to sell because what I’m selling is free. I just have to make it more inviting.”
Chilliwack’s senior population must surely approve.
A wheelchair and walker are now located at the front entrance; the information desk now has a chair for those needing to sit; a listening station has been installed; large print publications have been moved closer to the front desk; and a basket of reading glasses are also on hand for those weary eyes.
Small but significant additions.
“One lady told me she can now leave her walker in the car; she doesn’t have to fuss with it when she comes here,” said Miller.
“We’re very aware of the fact that our population is aging. The public library stands for access to all, and anytime we can make it more accessible to more of that all, then we’re doing our job.”
If you haven’t been to the library lately, said Miller, you must.
“This is not your granddaddy’s library anymore,” she said.