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Monday, March 28, 2011

Checking out a Legacy

One of my earliest memories is waiting for the bookmobile to roll into town.
I’m not sure how often the library on wheels stopped in Westbank but my mom, my brother and I regularly stood in the Anglican Church parking lot to wait our turn to climb aboard the van and search for something to read.
We didn’t go into Kelowna that often, especially not during the day when dad was at work with the family car, so the bookmobile was an outlet to the outside world.
In 1974, Okanagan Regional Library opened a branch with four walls, a roof and far more books than could ever be stuffed inside a van.
I still remember being handed my very own library card (it was paper in those days) and the number printed on it — 130.
That branch and its subsequent location as the community grew, became a second home for me. I would spend hours discovering what was new on the shelves.
It’s a good thing my house was only a few minutes away because riding a bicycle was challenging with a stack of books taller than my head. During the Summer Reading Club, a competitive streak was revealed and the goal was to leave the other kids in the dust and win a prize.
Eventually, both my mom and I learned how to drive, and that provided access to treasures in the much larger Kelowna branch.
Fresh out of journalism school, I moved to Vernon in April 1990 and after finding a place to rent in the BX and setting up a bank account, the next stop likely was the library.
One of my greatest joys as a father is when my daughters ask me to take them to the library. It brings back all of the good feelings I had as a kid, and it’s a common bond that we share. My youngest and I spent night after night with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH while it’s not uncommon, even now, for my oldest and I to giggle over the antics of Asterix the Gaul.
But not all of the magic is found between two covers.
Many summers for my girls were filled with activities at the library. Bead jewelry proved challenging for tiny fingers, but librarian Monica encouraged them to try. There were drawings and stories, and who can forget the puppet shows put on by librarian Judy.
My interest in libraries evolved into an obsession when I learned about Carol Williams touring all of ORL’s 29 branches as board chairperson. It was such an intriguing idea that I decided to hit the road.
Over the years, family get-aways have been shaped around my quest. A romantic weekend had my wife and I in the Oliver branch, while a spring break excursion with the kids found us in Oliver and Kaleden, where the big hit was the librarian’s dog. Camping in the Shuswap was interrupted by book hunts in Sorrento and Scotch Creek, and coming back the long way through Sicamous.
One day, my oldest and I didn’t have anything pressing to do, so we hopped in the truck and headed out to Cherryville. A week off found me in Falkland and Silver Creek.
Of the 29, there are only four left — Golden, Keremeos, Hedley and Princeton. They are at the far-flung reaches of the ORL territory but I am already looking at ways to get there.
They may not have considered their actions  significant, but ORL’s founders in 1936 were true visionaries.
The Depression had made dollars tight and even the largest Okanagan cities were small and rural, but these politicians understood the desire of residents to embrace words and ideas. It’s a legacy that has inspired countless generations and for that, we should be eternally grateful.

Sincere thanks to Richard Rolke, a senior reporter with the Morning Star newspaper in Vernon, for this guest blog post. It was originally published in the Vernon Morning Star on March 23, 2011.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's a cake walk!

For the first time in its 75-year history, all 29 branches of the ORL were open at the same time to host Open House celebrations honouring this important anniversary. Branches had historical displays, special guests, readings by authors, children's storytimes, commemorative booklists, and many other activities for the public to enjoy.

But by far the most popular item at branches were the cakes! Eager children sat patiently through dignitary's speeches waiting for the big cake-cutting at many locations, set to demolish the hard work of bakeries throughout the ORL region. Some bakeries had high-tech capabilities to put a screening of the 75th anniversary logo on the frosting, while others used traditional icing tubes to design a greeting. Here is a sweet sampling of designs....a cake walk through the ORL region!

Traditional roses in Peachland.

A lovely caption in Oliver.

"Happy Birthday Orl" in Kelowna.

Creative mistake-corrections with sprinkles in Westbank!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Why the tape books are important in my life..."

Many people enjoy reading. So what happens when a person who loves reading loses their sight? The ORL administers a special program lending audio materials to eligible visually impaired and homebound customers. Each registered user gets a weekly one-on-one consultation with a reference assistant to help them choose materials of interest, and taped books are mailed postage-free to wherever the customer lives in the ORL region.

Here is a heart-warming letter from one taped book customer championing this service:

Why the tape books are important in my life:

I was a librarian, an English high school teacher and read constantly before becoming seriously severely visually impaired. I can now see only to get around, am over 90 years old and not able to get about very well. There is very little to do to keep me occupied.

The talking tapes are an integral part of my life. The service is essential to me. The assistance I get from the reference assistant Suzanne Mitchell at the library ensures that I can obtain the best of the literature which is compatible to my taste in good reading. She also lightens up my week with her common sense and friendliness.

I read and use these tapes every day, all day long. If I was unable to access these services my life would be an unendurable endless nothing.

- Henry Hildebrand (written for Henry by his wife)

To learn more about this program, visit your local branch and ask for a Taped Book program form.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Year in Numbers

When most people think of libraries, they naturally think of books and words. But the ORL’s recently released 2010 Executive Summary contains some pretty significant numbers - staggering numbers when you think about it.
For example, there were 444,400 reference questions answered in 2010. That’s more than 1,200 a day, or 42 per branch per day! Given that few of our branches are open 7 days a week, you can see how busy an ORL staff member’s day can be answering questions – everything from what book to recommend to “what’s a reliable Internet source for travel information?” to “What year was Hedley established?”. Our reference librarians love to be challenged!
Computer terminals at our 29 branches were used a total of 157,490 times for an average of 27 minutes each time. That equals 2,953 days or over 8 years worth of constant computer use spread throughout the 114 terminals in our system!
Other astonishing figures during the 2010 year:
-          The ORL circulated a total of 3,354,326 items
-          ORL customers placed a total of 828,967 holds on items
-          89,125 people attended ORL programs
-          123,014 new volumes were added to the catalogue
-          The ORL website had 1.36 million hits
These figures are all increases over 2009 numbers. So when we hear the question “does anyone use the library anymore?”, you can understand why we smile. The proof is in the numbers.