Read into it what you will, but the packed crowd that assembled Saturday for the official grand opening of the new Chemainus library signifies the beginning of a new chapter for the branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library in the midst of a downtown Chemainus revival.
It was very much a community celebration, with ceremony, cake, entertainment, a chance to look over all the amenities that many have already come to know since the building opened Jan. 13 and to appreciate the facility’s importance.
The numbers speak volumes about what has already transpired since the soft opening.
David Carson, director of corporate communications for the VIRL, pointed out about 1,000 people went through the doors during the first two days after the branch opened; 6,000 book checkouts occurred in January; and 200 people signed up for library cards in January and February.
“From the moment the doors opened, the response from the community has been immediate and overwhelmingly positive,” said Carson.
VIRL representatives were on Cloud Nine with the response to the official opening and enjoyed greeting all the people who made comments or asked questions.
“It’s so great to see the community come out for this,” enthused Carson. “We’ve known for a long time there was a lot of excitement about this branch. It’s totally a community celebration. We couldn’t be happier.”
Joel Adams, the VIRL’s director of finance, concurred, recalling the Municipality of North Cowichan committed to the space in 2016 and how the process of formulating plans for the library developed from there.
“It’s neat to see the community came out for the first consultation and the excitement,” he said.
“As we designed it, we were able to pull in the wood and the timber and all the design elements. We’ve made it a really good place to gather.”
Chemainus Rotary Club finances went toward equipment for the children’s area, Adams pointed out, and that’s been a typical show of support for how much the library means to the community.
The bookable space has also been a popular feature, with community groups using it and essentially having enough room for two meetings at once with a retractable wall in the middle.
Library manager Steven Warren has been impressed with the number of bookings so far. Adams added the investment in a new collection, lots of technology and such simple things as curved shelving for a modern look have already paid off to produce a library that will long be a source of great pride.
Stz’uminus elder Buffy David conducted a ceremonial official welcome.
“It makes my heart feel happy to see this place,” she said.
And having such a wonderful facility with access to so many books, “it’s good medicine.”
The library’s expanded hours mean “it’s open when you when you want to be here which is absolutely fantastic,” added Carson.
“There’s so many new amenities and facilities that totally make this a 21st Century library.”