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The vital role of the Cranbrook Public Library

Ursula Brigl on a bench outside the Cranbrook library

Ursula Brigl takes pride in sharing knowledge with her community.Logan Shellborn photo

From boosting the local economy to fostering digital literacy, chief librarian Ursula Brigl explains why the library is so vital

by Danielle Brost

In the ever-evolving landscape of information and technology, libraries are beacons of knowledge, connection, and community. They bridge the digital divide by offering access to technology and digital literacy programs, ensuring that individuals from all walks of life can harness the power of the digital realm. Beyond their role as repositories of books, libraries have become inclusive spaces that foster dialogue, creativity, and personal growth. 

Delving into the pivotal role of the Cranbrook Public Library, we sat down with chief librarian Ursula Brigl to explore the far-reaching influence of this community cornerstone. Beyond its shelves of books and tranquil reading spaces, the library stands as a dynamic hub that not only enriches cultural fabric but significantly contributes to local economy, digital literacy, and community well-being. In this insightful conversation, Brigl sheds light on the diverse ways the library has woven itself into the fabric of Cranbrook, fostering growth, knowledge, and inclusivity.

- Logan Shellborn photo

How does the library help to boost our local economy?

It may seem odd to think of a library boosting the economy, considering membership and most of its programs and services are free.

Here are some of the ways the library supports our local economy:

  • There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the sharing economy, and sharing is at the heart of the library’s services.
  • Like our city’s recreational and cultural facilities, the library enriches the cultural fabric of our community. People take these amenities into consideration when they think of moving here.
  • The library provides access to a broad range of programs and services geared towards building a literate and engaged citizenry that is actively engaged in our community.
  • The library provides spaces where people can work and study.
  • On a very practical level, the library’s employees live in this community and frequent local businesses.

How do libraries make communities happier and healthier?

Libraries are all about connecting people with information in a safe and welcoming environment, and fostering social engagement. It is one of the few indoor spaces in our community where everyone is welcome for whatever reason.
People come to the library to get answers to their questions, take part in a program, meet with friends, work, study, read, hang out, access the computers or wi-fi, use the washroom, take a drink from the water fountain, escape the heat or cold, and more. Some people come in to chat with staff or show off their new puppy. Whatever the reason, people are always welcomed at the library.

And, of course, people come to the library to borrow books and films. There’s nothing better than to escape into a good book or show and leave the daily reality and stresses behind for a few hours.

Young library enthusiast Amelia is excited about learning. - Logan Shellborn photo

How does the library benefit local children?

The Jessie Slye Children’s library is a space just for kids. It features a colouring table, puppet theatre, kid-sized furniture, iPads loaded with apps for kids, plus a lot of space to hang out in.

There are thousands of books, DVDs and audiobooks for children in the library. In fact, so far in 2023, children have borrowed more books than adult have. From the Library of Things kids can borrow items such as the Bat Pack and cake pans.

There are also programs for kids of all ages. Programs like Baby Laptime, Toddler and Preschool Storytimes, after school programs, and the Summer Reading Club have been stalwarts for decades. These are joined by newer offerings such as coding workshops and, coming this fall, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programs.

Gwen Caouette is passionate about her job at the library. - Logan Shellborn photo

How can libraries help us preserve a link to our past?

The Cranbrook Public library has been serving our community since 1925. The Local History collection contains books that tell the stories of our region spanning the decades, reaching all the way back to the late 19th century. Reading these books provides people with insights into the views, perspectives and attitudes people held in the past.

How does the library make newcomers and visitors feel welcome?

The library is often the first place people visit when they arrive in town. We offer a safe, welcoming space for them to get their bearings. Library staff are always ready to help in any way and spend time with people to make them feel comfortable.

- Logan Shellborn photo

Can you tell me about some key features at the library that people may not know about?

The Idea Lab is the newest addition to the library. Made possible by a Community Technology Initiative grant provided by the Columbia Basin Trust, the Idea Lab provides entrepreneurs, and anyone who is curious, with access to industry-standard equipment and software to provide them with the opportunity to try the equipment out for free before committing to an investment of thousands of dollars to get their own. There’s a sound recording booth and audio-editing workstation to create podcasts and conduct interviews. People can make their own illustration and create computer animated films at the digital creation station, and edit their videos with Adobe Creative Suite software. There’s also a 3D printer where people can create and print their own 3D projects.

The Mobile Printing Service allows people to print to the library’s printer from any mobile device or laptop, from anywhere with an Internet connection. They then have 72 hours to come to the library to pick up their print job. Printing is available in both black & white and colour.

And for all the backcountry enthusiasts, the library also has a comprehensive set of topographical maps of our region.

- Logan Shellborn photo

How does the Cranbrook Public library support small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs understand the importance of controlling costs to maximize their return on investment. Rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on information resources and learning opportunities, the library provides them with free access to a broad range of current, reputable and reliable resources, both print and digital.

The collections contain a large selection of books on all aspects of starting and running a business; from how to write a business plan, to managing employees, to effective marketing. Take a peek at the catalogue to get an idea of the books available on Business and Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs can access subscription-based digital resources at any time for free with their library membership number. For example, LinkedIn Learning offers hundreds of courses designed and presented by professionals on a vast range of subjects spanning the range from learning how to master Excel to artificial intelligence for business.

The library also provides many places to sit and work, free wi-fi access, public computers and scanning, faxing, and printing services. All the services and resources are supported by knowledgeable staff who are there to help out and answer any questions people may have.

How can entrepreneurs support the library in return?

The best way entrepreneurs can support the library is to use it, and to let us know what kinds of information resources would help them realize their business goals.

Visit the Cranbrook Public Library online to learn more about its diverse offerings.