Williams Lake’s own Cariboo Regional District library continues to remain a pillar of the community, offering traditional and digital resources for all.
This year for the Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy Society’s (CCPL) Reach A Reader Day, the Tribune decided to sit down with William Lake’s area librarian to discuss our public library.
With the rise of the digital age over the last two decades, the role of libraries has become ever evolving and we wanted to know how our own local library is changing.
Anton Dounts came to the Cariboo-Chilcotin three years ago from Montreal, initially on a temporary contract, before signing on to become Williams Lake’s area librarian. From day to day his responsibilities include anything and everything related to the operation and welfare of his branch.
Dounts had always wanted work in something related to the community and after gaining his bachelor’s degree, decided to go into library studies as a way to give back to society.
“Personally, as someone who used a library all throughout my adolescence into young adulthood, I really like the environment of a library. I like the atmosphere, I like the environment so it kind of seemed like the perfect fit,” Dounts said.
The library has a wide range of resources and programs, Dounts said, including those they’re known for — books, DVDs and magazines— as well as digital resources such as diagrams, digital encyclopedias and other digital content accessible via the website.
“Libraries, we try and stay ahead of the curve a little bit and predict the sort of things that will be important or be trending,” Dounts said. “The idea that people are going to be sort of moving away from printed materials and towards digital content, considering smartphones becoming a regular phenomenon, as well as ebooks. Ebooks were on the rise (when I got here) and are steadily plateauing now, never the less I think the hunger for digital content is still going up, year to year and that’s why we try to keep up with the trends.”
Ebooks and audiobooks, in his opinion, are definitely on the rise and as such the library lends them out same as their print counterparts. Despite this, for Williams Lake at least, print circulation numbers are still strong overall, though they tend to fluctuate depending on the time of year and most recently the wildfires of 2017.
Print fiction is still going strong, Dounts said as is borrowing from their DVD collection. In fact, Dounts believes the library is the only place in town where you can still sign out large numbers of DVDs.
A chunk of his acquisitions budget is devoted to media of this sort, so as to continuously bring in new content for the community.
As far as programs go, Dounts said there was a period of time before his arrival where the library had to cancel or suspend many programs, as there was no area librarian or branch assistant, due to sickness. Since he’s taken on the position and hired a new branch assistant, Darren Smith, he said they’ve continuously tried new programs.
Currently, Dounts runs or facilitates 16 programs out of the library, many geared towards younger kids. These include a library tour where Dounts or another librarian gives a detailed tour of the library and all its resources and entertainment based programs including Gamer’s Library, Movies at the Library and Story Time, all free of charge.
“We try and develop programs for adults and teenagers, which is a little hard, especially for teenagers,” Dounts said. “They’re a rather flighty group, it’s hard to get them to be interested in one thing for long enough to maintain a program.”
Community partnering is key in offering some programs, Dounts asserted. Some require more attention or expertise than the library can provide, so community groups step up to fill the hole. Chess at the Library, for example, is offered every Thursday by the Williams Lake Chess Club while CCPL offers Computer Workshops and Tutorials.
He’s also secured new equipment for the library, such as a CD listening station to better utilize the CD collection. It allows people to pop a CD in, try it out, and then decide if they want to take it out or not.
With the help of the Friends of the Library, who run books sales and other fundraisers for the library, Dounts recently started a new program for kids called Lego Club.
His other recent program addition is Paws4Stories, where one of the library’s volunteers brings a therapy dog, Molly, in once a week. Dounts said kids are then invited to come in and read to Molly, pet her and spend time with her, something he says has been very popular.
He also provides space for spontaneous community events, presentations and workshops as they come up, such as a recent presentation on beekeeping. The expertise these groups bring is key as, while he has the space for the activities, Dounts wouldn’t be able to put the programs on without them.
The computers the library offers remains popular Dounts said, especially among vulnerable and low-income members of the community who wouldn’t have access to the internet otherwise. Many, Dounts observes, use it as a resource to access Facebook to reconnect with family and friends.
In support of the CCPL for their literacy week and Reach a Reader Day, Dounts said they’ll be having specially themed literacy programming on Thursday, Jan. 24.
This includes a special Lego Club and Minecraft-like game available to be played on the library’s PlayStation.
“(I think of) the forms of literacy that we try to help with and nurture in the community. In addition to your regular print literacy, there is digital literacy and information literacy so we try to work on those with our community members,” Dounts said. “Especially when it comes to digital literacy, technology is swiftly changing and in order to ensure the community is confident and comfortable with this technology we try to offer these (programs and services) to them.”
Dounts hopes that in 2019 more community members come to learn of and utilize the swathe of resources the library offers, be it for entertainment, educational or self-enrichment purposes.