So much of my time growing up was spent in the library. When I was a kid, it was the epicenter of my social scene. In the summertime my sisters, my friends and I used to spend hours in the library: trying to finish the Summer Reading Passport, taking Spy School (don’t judge, it was the 90s and there was no internet yet!) or just hanging out. I discovered so much in the library – authors that I love to this day, people that shaped our world through politics, science, or sport, and even Sweet Valley’s Elizabeth & Jessica Wakefield, arguably the most famous twins in literary history. In high school & university, the library helped define our social standing. Which library you studied in, where you sat, who you sat with, it all meant something.
I’m sad to say, I haven’t been to a library “just like that” in years. Once I left university, I felt like the library just didn’t seem relevant anymore. Thanks to the Internet, I could find the answer to any question within seconds and from the comfort of my own home, and ever since I started buying books online or downloading them to my Kindle it seemed inconvenient to wait for months for the library to get stock, and then wait until the book wasn’t being borrowed by anyone else.
When I heard that the Edmonton Public Library was renovating some of their older branches, as well as building new ones, I was almost shocked. Who needs new libraries? Do people even go there anymore? I was curious to find out. So with all the buzz surrounding the new Jasper Place library and its modern new design, I decided to go and check it out on the first weekend since its grand reopening. I am happy to say, my visit gave me a very pleasant reality check.
The building itself is beautiful. It has a modern, open, bright architectural design and is showcased so well in its original spot in the middle of an old residential area. From the pictures, I thought it would stick out like a sore thumb in such an old neighbourhood, but somehow it fits. Inside, the windows create a bright space unlike the cavernous interiors we’ve grown up with, and the wide staircase creates access to the workspaces and magazines upstairs, but also seems like a built in “stoop” to sit on and read or hang out.
According to the website (www.epl.ca) here are some of the features that might draw you into the new branch:
- 19 public computer stations plus two Early Literacy Stations
- Cheerful children’s area
- Community program room
- Expanded reading areas for all ages
- Quiet study room
- Second floor mezzanine
- Outdoor terrace
- LEED certified for green building design and construction
But what will keep you coming back is the feeling. As soon as I walked into the library, I felt like I was back in my childhood. Even though you can still smell the construction when you walk in, as soon as you get to the books, you can also smell the dust from the pages being turned. Looking at all the books, still arranged by the Dewey Decimal system, it seems antiquated but comforting at the same time. There are automatic self-checkout stations, but the staff at the front desk still know the regulars who come through the door.
Being back in the library reminded me why I used to love it so much. Seeing the young parents with their kids looking at magazines and books, reminds me that every good neighborhood needs a library. It isn’t about the technology or the information; it’s about the sanctuary. As I think about my friends with young kids, or my sisters who will soon have kids, or even my own one day, I look forward to spending time with them at the library and being part of their own discovery – of new authors, stories, their own Elizabeth & Jessica Wakefield; cultivating their imaginations and their love for creativity, curiosity, and discovery.
That’s what libraries are for. And if you haven’t been to one lately, let me recommend the new Jasper Place branch.
The Jasper Place branch of the Edmonton Public Library is located at 9509 156 St NW. Visit http://www.epl.ca/about-epl/branches-and-hours/jasper-place-branch to learn more.
Faaiza Ramji lives in Edmonton and writes for The Spectator Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @FaaizaRamji
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