For Okanagan artist Alison Beaumont and other longtime residents in the Central Okanagan, the upcoming permanent closure of a local public library will be a big loss for their neighbourhood.
Last Wednesday, the Okanagan Regional Library (ORL) system announced that its branch in Oyama, B.C. — a small community home to less than 1,000 people located between the Kalamalka and Wood Lakes — will shut its doors for good on Oct. 28.
The 600 square foot library opens from 3 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Despite the brief service hours, the tiny library has meant a lot to Beaumont, a writer who has lived in Oyama since 2010.
"The library may only be open two evenings a week for a total of eight hours, but really, it makes a huge difference to the community," she told Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South.
"It's been a huge part of my son growing up — going to pyjama time at the library and really fostering his interest in books [and] the connection to the school," she said.
ORL says it decided to close the Oyama branch because the population being served is too small and there are bigger branches nearby, including the 6,000 square foot Lake Country library, 10 kilometres south of the Oyama location.
Communications director Michal Utko says the decision was made after the Oyama Community Association's sale of the building — meaning the Oyama library, as a tenant, will have to move out by the end of October.
"The action of selling the building triggered an internal analysis of the services we offer," Utko said Wednesday on Daybreak South.
"That analysis concluded that closing the Oyama branch and relocating the resources to the Lake Country library would benefit more people in the Lake Country area."
Currently closed on Sundays and Mondays, from November onwards the Lake Country library will be open for four hours on Sunday and an additional four hours across the rest of the week.
"Giving the Lake Country people an access to a library during the weekend on a Sunday was something that we heard from the communities all throughout our system and that people wanted, and that is something that we were striving for," Utko said.
Library service continued for Oyama residents
ORL says the Lake Country library staff will regularly visit Oyama to provide children's storytimes and summer reading club programs at a local venue. They also promise to continue offering book return bins and wi-fi services at the Oyama Community Association building.
Meanwhile, Beaumont has been mobilizing people on social media to ask ORL to keep the Oyama library.
Beaumont says she fears libraries in other small communities across the Okanagan may also be shut down with very short notice.
"I think it's shortsighted in a time when we're really looking to cultivate more belonging and being more community-minded," she said. "Taking a small library away, I think, is a huge thing."
Utko says there are no discussions within ORL at this time about closing any other branches.
LISTEN | Alison Beaumont tells Chris Walker about the Oyama library on Daybreak South:
LISTEN | ORL communications director Michal Utko's on the Oyama branch's closure: