North Delta’s George Mackie Library. (James Smith photo)

North Delta’s George Mackie Library. (James Smith photo)

Delta residents weigh in on library plan

More programming, particularly computer technology support, top of wish list

Deltans are mostly happy with the city’s libraries, though there is room for improvement.

A draft library plan was approved by council on May 8 and sent for public consultation. The plan included improvements in all three Delta libraries, specifically recommending the creation of an integrated service desk at North Delta’s George Mackie Library to “enhance the cross-training of Delta staff and maximize existing staffing,” as well as using Rick Hansen Accessibility Grant funding to improve the library’s accessibility.

The draft plan recommends that Delta staff develop a list of strategic building improvements and explore additional parking options at all three libraries, and outlines a number of weaknesses specific to the Mackie Library, including under-staffing compared to optimal service levels, and a lack of space.

SEE ALSO: Delta calling for input into draft library plan

On Oct. 16, council was presented with the results of a month-long public consultation on the draft library plan. About 50 people attended the open houses at Delta’s three libraries in early September — most of them at the Tsawwassen Library — while 110 online surveys were completed, plus verbal and written comments.

According to the report to council, the vast majority of comments were complimentary about Delta’s libraries and staff, and many expressed appreciation for the services provided.

However, it notes a large number of respondents said there needs to be more programming for children, youth and seniors, and in a wider range of topics, particularly computer technology support.

While calling on the libraries to maintain their existing programs, people wanted to see more technical support classes, coding courses, classes for seniors on how to use new technology and keep up with changes, and practical “how-to” classes in areas such as accessing information on the internet, financial planning and community emergency preparedness.

Respondents also asked for more early reading programs and activities for children, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) tutoring, self-directed programs, multicultural programming and cross-cultural learning.

Some suggested the libraries bring in more guest speakers, lectures on current events and TED Talk-type discussion groups.

The report noted there were also several comments about the need for better promotion and advertising of programs, including requests for direct email notifications of programs.

Most people pointed to the important role computers play both within and outside of the library, but the report says many “also stressed the need to maintain the core function of libraries as repositories of books and other printed materials.”

Some commented about the increasing number of empty shelves in the libraries, long waits for new titles and easier access to materials through non-FVRL libraries in Richmond and Surrey.

Sixty-two people asked for more books — both fiction and non-fiction — that relate to a wide audience, addressing the needs of a more diverse population and the interests of recent immigrants. A common request, it was noted, was for more board books for very young children.

Many people also asked for an expanded range of e-books, and several asked that they be loaned for longer than the current limit of 14 days. Some people asked for the service to be expanded to allow book loans to Kindle devices.

Other issues people highlighted were the need for additional and more comfortable seating, better lighting (the report says several people called the Mackie and Ladner libraries “dark and uninviting”) and new computers, particularly in the Tsawwassen Library.

Respondents also suggested having “coffee corners” in the libraries, more art on display, and a mobile app for library services.

Delta and Fraser Valley Regional Library staff will now review the draft library plan and work on ways to incorporate the feedback they’ve received. The amended library plan will be submitted for council’s consideration in early 2018.

– with files from Grace Kennedy