$1.4 Million Dollar upgrade makes BPL interactive part of Brantford streetscape

By: Yvonne Van De Wiele- Cooper

The Brantford Public Library revamp is designed to turn heads and inspire a culture of creativity and discovery.
The new floor to ceiling front window at the Main Branch moves the building five feet further into the streetscape, while making everything brighter and more accessible.

Photo Courtesy of the Brantford Public Library

Library Manager James Clark says the City of Brantford and the Brantford Public Library Board contributed to the project, which includes a new fully-accessible entrance, upgrades to the HVAC system, new customer service desks, self-checkouts and an automatic sorting machine. The federal government also contributed $333,000 to the project under the Community Infrastructure Program.

“It was like all the stars aligned,” says Clark. “The city and Library Board funding allowed us to cover the major maintenance work that was needed and that extra federal funding allowed us to give the project that “wow” factor.”

“This bright new space reflects how the Library has changed as a cultural and learning institution in the city,” says Clark. “Now people driving past will see activity in the space and be inspired to come inside the building and bring their family, friends and parents.”

In addition to loaning hundreds of thousands of books, magazines and DVD’s each year, more than 20,000 people participate in various programs that go well beyond reading clubs.

For example, the library hosts regular adult craft programs, family-focused tech programs and visits from popular children’s performers and local groups, like the Guitar Society of Brantford.

Photo Courtesy of the Brantford Public Library

Amazingly, with the exception of a wine and cheese author series, which charges a nominal $25, it’s all free.
The recent renovation also allowed the Library to move its popular MakerSpace materials to a dedicated area on the main floor. This space offers free access to 3D printers, scrapbooking and crafting technology and a machine that converts slides to digital files.

An audiovisual room is right next to this new space where people can make videos, use graphic design software and record podcasts or music.

The Library also offers free access to some of the world’s best online services, like Ancestry.com and Lynda.com.
With all of these programs and services, the core of the library is promoting reading and lifelong learning. The library continues to offer free children’s summer tutoring, drop in homework help through the school year and a summer reading club, which has more than 1,000 participants each year.

Although the library isn’t just stacks of books anymore, they naturally have a large physical collection of non-fiction and fiction books and a growing collection of downloadable eBooks and Audiobooks that can be downloaded to a smart device through the free “Libby” app.

Photo Courtesy of the Brantford Public Library

Along with the physical improvements at the Main Branch and the increase in programs and services, the Library is tweaking their customer service model to continue to meet and exceed the evolving demands of the community.

Now, for example, a customer asking for books on Microsoft Excel can now be registered for an in-class Microsoft Excel program that will be held at the library and shown how to access free online on-demand Microsoft Excel training videos through Lynda.com.

Clark says this new full-service approach will foster positive relationships.

“There’s a lot of information on the internet where people can get a quick answer, but that can only get someone so far,” says Clark. “How do they know the information is correct or from a trusted source? Our staff are trained to provide the best possible resources and offer suggestions for further learning opportunities.”

Meantime, plenty of traditional quiet areas remain throughout the library for those in need of solitude and study space.

The library’s new and improved features are now open to the public and a community celebration is set for 2 p.m. on Friday April 27th.

Other events are being planned for that weekend, including a live birds of prey exhibit on Saturday, April 28th at 2:30 p.m.

From Friday April 27th to Friday May 4th, Brantford Public Library is featuring a “Food for Fines” initiative, where those with library fines, can donate non-perishable food items in exchange for fines owed. One non-perishable food item will be worth $5.00 in fines and up to $20 in fines can be forgiven. This forgiveness doesn’t apply to lost or damaged items.

For more information on the Brantford Public Library, check out, www.brantfrod.library.on.ca or follow the library on Facebook and Twitter.