In March 1936, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia signed a proclamation that created what was then known as the “Okanagan Union Library District”. 75 years later the ORL is celebrating its continued service to communities in the BC Southern Interior.
However, this doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels. As an institution, libraries are continually evolving to remain relevant to the public, especially in the past few decades with the explosion of technology and the Internet and the ORL is no exception. From adding a feature films collection to introducing wireless Internet access at all 29 branches, the ORL wants to ensure it is meeting the information and entertainment needs in its communities. And with that in mind, the ORL did a research survey last fall as a first step in its strategic planning process.
Some of the results are eye-opening. 74% of households in the ORL region reported they use the public library, with 45% of them reporting they have more than one cardholder in their home. More than a third of respondents visit their local branch at least once a week. Of those who don't use the library, 78% of them said it "just never occurs to them" to do so!
When it comes to technology, the ORL is a lifeline to the worldwide web for many people. A vast majority can access the Internet at home or work, but 19% of users rely on their local branch to use the Internet. Almost half of all respondents say they use digital media, such as downloadable music and eBooks, however, they also reported they still prefer traditional forms of media - the physical book, the physical CD, the actual paper magazine. And when someone is looking for information or an answer to a question, the Internet is cited as the first place people look. But the library is a solid #2, before even asking another person.
Given this information, it seems patterns of library use are evolving from traditional physical resources to digital online resources, but both are important to users. Is the library a physical place you visit to get materials and enjoy the space, or is the library an online tool to find your digital resources? Or is it both? As we celebrate our history at ORL, we are also keenly looking towards the future and what our system will look like over the next 75 years.