The New Vancouver Library

Patty Osborne

The first time I visited the new library I was planning only to look around. It was opening week and things were pretty busy. I made my way through the entertainers, politicians and sightseers through the tall glass doors and into a large entry hall with a glass roof. The natural light gave the illusion of outdoors—a yuppy version of the traditional mudroom. From there it was a short walk into the library proper. No more doors, just a stroll along the brick floor, past the security scanners, and onto the carpet of the library itself. The first thing I did was stand in a short lineup to get a library card. It was simple, just a couple of pieces of ID from which the clerk typed information into the computer, and out came my card. When I asked if I had to pay any money and the clerk said no, I felt like I had discovered a great bargain. I walked on into the library feeling all clean and new. Next I checked out the computerized catalogue. Lots of terminals and the program on them was the familiar one I was used to from my local library. Then over to the Popular Reading Library where, among other things, the mysteries are kept. My bag was already filled with heavy things and I had several more blocks to walk, so I restrained myself from pulling books off the shelf that I would not be able to carry. A helpful brochure tells me that the Literature section is on the second floor. Things get a little confusing here as the main floor is called Level 2 because the basement, which houses the Children's section, is called Level 1. To get to the second floor, or Level 3, I took the fancy chrome escalator that goes all the way up to the sixth floor (or Level 7). In the Literature section I remembered hearing Annie Dillard on the radio so I decided to look for her. There were several books to choose from so I picked the smallest—a thin hardcover called The Writing Life. Looked interesting and wouldn't overload my bag. Back down the escalator to youth. My thirteen-year-old daughter has already read every Youth book in our local library. I chose a lightweight pocket book which it turned out she had already read anyway, but she assured me she didn't mind reading it again. To check out my two small books I decided to try the automated check-out. There were a few people in line and we all got together to figure out how to make it work. You have to slide your book along a metal plate until the bar code is positioned correctly for the scanner to read it. A video screen above the scanner tries to show how it is done—you know you have the book in the right place when the video screen reads: DO NOT MOVE BOOK UNTIL SCANNER IS FINISHED. It all seemed to take much longer than just handing the books over to the clerk. I crammed the books into my bag and headed out through the security scanners, into the brightness of the entry hall, through the glass doors, across the brick courtyard, and onto the sidewalk. What I was feeling was definitely excitement.

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