Victor Schukov: Pierrefonds library extension an investment in citizen happiness
VICTOR SCHUKOV, SPECIAL TO THE MONTREAL GAZETTE
Published on: May 23, 2016
I have a confession. A few years back, I used to practically live in the Chapters store in Pointe-Claire, speed-reading all of the latest books and magazines, and then walk out without buying anything. I looked upon the bright and airy bookstore as a library with mostly new goodies. My kind of clientele, of course, does not pay their utility bills. And apparently, I was not the only opportunist:
Like a Tai Chi snail-paced version of musical chairs, they very gradually removed more and more seating. At one point, I considered bringing my own folding lawn chair but figured that I might be thrown out as a squatter. Then, I had a brainstorm: I thought, if I loved library-like reading so much, maybe I should go to a library. So, I switched to the Pointe-Claire Library, or as I like to call it today, The Greatest Library in the World, which tells you something about my unworldliness. I was hooked all over again.
The books don’t all have that new-car smell, but the seating is abundant and there is no cloying satellite music to distract me from my reading. (I am incapable of multitasking and my lips move when I read so I catch myself lip-synching any lingering song.) And you can rent DVDs. All of this is Nirvana to someone like me who doesn’t own a cellphone nor an iPad. I prefer topping off my kettle of scuttlebutt in the analog way. And how much more of a pleasurable and convenient transformation can we make to West Island public libraries?
Well, Pierrefonds is taking the high road with its $20-million extension to the Pierrefonds-Roxboro library, adding 2,300 square metres of space to the main floor as well as a basement and a terrace with a café. Wow. It’s like deja-vu at Chapters all over again. But wait, it’s going to become ground zero for all ages, co-mingling in a recreational setting that transcends the old idea of a library being just dull channels of aging books like in the opening scene of Ghostbusters. With the addition of a media centre, a 3D printing suite and a children’s learning lab, it is a design concept on the cusp of a new age. With that alone, it leads the West Island into the 21st Century.
According to Mayor Jim Beis, more employees will be added proportionally. But, for me, the beauty of it all is that libraries are practically self-serve centres anyway. One doesn’t really need much help; it’s not like you are in Réno-Dépôt looking for a drill chuck key.
In the future, the sky is literally the limit as we should see our libraries retrofitted with more natural lighting through skylights, and glass displacing brick. And maybe lots more internal greenery till you have that feeling of peace in the park. The grey days of single-purpose funereal public libraries will one day be a thing of the past. The City of Pierrefonds has it right.
A modern designed library is an investment in its citizens’ wholesome recreation and education, and most importantly, happiness. With chairs that don’t conspicuously disappear into the Twilight Zone.