A place of change, a place of growth

The Waterloo Public Library looks for community feedback to direct the future of its branches

Photo by Jessica Dik
Photo by Jessica Dik

Laurie Clarke says the Waterloo Public Library is about a lot more than just books these days.

Clarke, who is the CEO of WPL, said they are looking to continue to expand their services. The library will be circulating a survey to gather feedback from the community in terms of what services they would like to see provided by the proposed east side branch.

“There are more options on delivering service now than there used to be,” she said. “We want to explore everything before any decisions are made on what type of branch would be built.”

There will also be questions regarding the main branch on the survey. According to Clarke, they saw this as an opportunity to better the services they already provide as well and determine the future of this branch.

Clarke explained they already have some models in mind for the libraries, but are largely looking to the public to see what their priorities are.

“What would people be interested in seeing? What is the most important aspect? Is it quiet space, study space, programming for all ages — probably heavy on the children, you might anticipate.”

Clarke said they also want to ensure people understand the wide array of services the library already offers, beyond books.

“Books are still very important to people, but there are so many other things with the new technology,” she said.

For example, the library holds tech talks which give people who are less technologically savvy the chance to develop their skills with different pieces of equipment. She also doesn’t believe that e-books are close to pushing out physical copies. One reason is e-books are still very expensive for libraries to purchase, but there is also a lot of information and material that is not available in e-books yet or online.

“The point is that it is part of the reality and it is part of the future,” Clarke admitted. “People use our space a lot for everything. It’s a third space — it’s not work, it’s not home, but it’s somewhere you can be.”

As a result, their efforts have been directed toward creating a space for learning in a broad sense, such as by offering programming courses or through the purchase of a 3D printer.

“People often feel much more comfortable in this setting and not threatened. I mean, that’s what we’re all about, that’s what we’ve always done: assisting people to find the information they need.”

The survey will be circulated for approximately two months. After all of the data has been gathered, Clarke said she anticipates the analysis and compiling of the analysis into a report will be a lengthy process.

“At this point I would say that we might be looking at some results in the fall,” she continued.

They will present the information to the library board, which will then eventually make a recommendation to council as to what shape the libraries will take.

Clarke said she is hoping they will be able to garner a great deal of community involvement through the survey. She believes the library will continue to “be here and strong.”

“It’s never boring in a library —I know many people think it is, but it’s pretty interesting.”

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