Library boss

The Okanagan Regional Library is taking programs and services outside the branches, reads part of a presentation prepared by executive director Don Nettleton. At first, some West Kelowna youth didn't appreciate the outreach program.

Teens weren’t too receptive initially when library staff paid a visit to a Westside youth centre.

Instead of availing themselves of library programs and services, the youngsters were surprisingly hostile to employees of the Okanagan Regional Library.

“At our first visit, the youth refused to speak with us and shouted for others to stay away from the table we had set up,” reads part of a report to be presented Tuesday to West Kelowna city council by ORL executive director Don Nettleton.

“Each visit, we adjusted in order to overcome challenges and create a warm and approachable presence,” the report states. “By our fourth visit, we made a breakthrough when a few teens joined us to learn to make vinyl stickers and browse our giveaway books.”

The ORL’s effort to directly connect on a biweekly basis with the teens who visit the Westside Youth Centre on Main Street in Westbank reflects the organization’s broader determination to take the library into non-traditional programs.

Library staff also visited a biweekly soup kitchen run out of the Westbank United Church, offer digital technology instruction at the new Westside Learning Lab, and have plans for trips to Mount Boucherie Secondary School and a seniors’ centre.

“Looking ahead, a goal for our library in the Westside is to continue to expand our presence and services outside our walls — reaching community members across the city,” the report says.

“(The learning lab) demonstrates the value of the library in connecting community members of all ages with access to technology, such as 3D printing, that sparks learning, creativity and innovation,” the report states.

But overall use of the Westside library has nevertheless declined slightly in recent years.

In 2017, 236,495 items were checked out. The number dipped to 225,109 last year, and from January through September this year a total of 172,758 items were borrowed.

Total in-person visits to Westside libraries has also declined, from 111,794 in 2017 to 106,642 last year, to 85,119 from January through September this year.”

One concern of library staff is the lack this winter of a homeless shelter on the Westside.

“Without an emergency shelter, we will likely see more challenges in the branch this cold season, such as sleeping, patrons who refuse to leave at closing time, and patrons using the space inappropriately because they have nowhere else to go to meet their needs,” the report states.