Delta Coun. Ian Paton says that he sees libraries going the way of the video store - in other words, into extinction.
"But I'm probably ... wrong about that," he added.
Yes, he is wrong. He notes that he doesn't use the library, so I can forgive the lack of awareness - to a degree.
But if he's in a position to make a decision about the funding of these facilities, I'd suggest he perhaps spend some time at local libraries before he rings the death knell for them.
I rarely use the public transit system, but I wouldn't suggest it's useless and unnecessary because it isn't important to me personally; the same should hold true in this circumstance.
My guess is that Paton hears the word "library" and thinks it still means what it did in his own youth: a place with a lot of books.
If that were the case, he'd probably be right. How many kids head off to the library to do research for a paper by rifling through stacks of encyclopedias, when the internet and all its offerings are so quickly available at home or school? How many more adults are using ereaders, or just not reading at all anymore? How many families have substantial bookshelves in their children's rooms without any "borrowing" required?"
But that's not what a library is anymore. It's a place of connection: story times for parents and children create a rare opportunity for often isolated parents to talk to their peers; English conversation groups provide a place for newcomers to practise skills; talks and visits by authors give readers a chance to learn and experience new things.
It's a place of equality: not everyone can afford, or wants, to have home computers, internet connections, smartphones and the like.
It's a place of learning: yes, believe it or not, there are still people who love the feel of a bound book between their hands, who wander the rows glancing at titles on astronomy, religion, philosophy, self-help, cooking, crafting, gardening, and more - and find inspiration in doing so.
It's a place of fun: libraries have changed their offerings to meet the needs of the community. For example, most kids' sections now have lending boxes that include a few books, a CD, and a toy or two (usually on a common theme, like trains or dinosaurs) put together for a specific age group. For cash-strapped parents (or those who know that variety is the spice of a toddler's life) the ability to swap out these boxes and borrow them for a period of time is a great service.
It's a place of technology: yep, many people are switching to ebooks. But guess what: buying an ebook still isn't cheap. Libraries are responding to this by slowly building their ebook resources.
No, it's not always as fast as buying it yourself - with limited licences, you can't always get the book as soon as you want it - but if you're willing to wait, you can get what you want. And it's free!
But aside from all this, it's a place of wonder. As a parent, I bring my kids to the library because there's nothing like the thrill of seeing all those stories, all those stacks, in one place and thinking, "I want to read them all!"
As we lament the video-game era of childhood that seems to be upon us, why would we consider short funding one of the few places that still gives children access to unlimited imagination, learning and amazement?
I encourage Paton (and all elected officials, actually) to check out his local library - but when he does, he should pretend he is someone else: visit it as a parent, and check out the long list of story times and support services; visit it as an underemployed individual who doesn't have technology at home and discover the lifeline that the library is; visit it as a senior citizen who lives alone and for whom the library is a time of social interaction; visit it as a child, and see the riches that exist on its rows and rows of shelves.
There is incredible value in the library - but I fear that Paton, and others who echo his sentiments, won't see it unless they actually spend some time there, or ponder what role it plays in the lives of someone other than themselves.
Christina Myers is a Surrey resident and a reporter with the Burnaby Now, a sister paper to the Now.