Strathcona, Downtown Eastside and Chinatown finally get their own library
nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona branch opened April 19 after years of planning
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It’s been planned for decades, but Vancouver’s inner city neighbourhoods of Strathcona, Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside finally have their own full-service Vancouver Public Library branch.
"I was branch head of the Carnegie Library and it was very fulfilling," said Stephanie Kripps, head of nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona branch, of the nearby Carnegie reading room at Main and Hastings.
“It was challenging, diverse, interesting — people help one another and you don’t have to say how can I possibly involve the community? The community is there, and I knew it would be the same here.”
On April 19, just an hour after the library at 730 E Hastings St. opened for the first time, the branch was full of teenagers, seniors and all ages in between.
People were absorbed in books and magazines, using the computers, chatting and watching a video that explained the meaning of the Musqueam name of the branch (nə́c̓aʔmat ct means “we are one”).
Byron Cruz, who works with new immigrants and refugee claimants at a resource centre nearby, had dropped in to check out the new branch.
“We have families who are waiting to be accepted to school,” Cruz explained, “and while they are waiting — because it can take months, years — we at least have a way of keeping the children reading books and learning.”
The community was previously served by the small reading room at Carnegie Community Centre, and the library at Strathcona Elementary also doubled as a public library, said Sandra Singh, chief librarian at the Vancouver Public Library.
“Because it was in the school, it really limited our ability to provide a full range of services and of course it closed down in August,” Singh said.
“Access to a full range of library services really is an equalizing force in the community, because there are so many things, even wanting to read a book or have internet access, is often beyond their means.”
The library cost $15 million to build and is located on the ground floor of a new building that provides 21 units of housing to single mothers.