A New Second Home

After the recent closing of the Whitehorse Public library, I found myself experiencing a surprising loss and rebirth.

The move from its original home to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre was arduous, exciting in a depressing sort of way.

Seeing pictures of the skeletal shelves of the old library gives some patrons quite a chill. Many people view the library’s move almost like a death in the family.

I am one of many Whitehorse citizens who grew up in the library. The librarians were my dear aunts and I knew the place like a second home.

Seeing my second home disassembled and put away to go somewhere else filled me with melancholy – the hollowness of knowing that, no matter what we do, things simply do not stay the same.

The old library served Whitehorse well, and I was sad to see it go.

As I walk in for the grand re-opening of the library on December 3, I see that I’m not the only one gawking; it is quite a sight.

The first thing I notice is the enormous, globular lamps above our heads. Enclosed within each is a simple bulb, but there is a white sphere around it like a Chinese lantern with a distinctly Yukon touch.

In fact, the library is filled with light. There are windows all along the walls, and gargantuan skylights above.

Several children wander about, craning their necks to count every skylight. I am sorely tempted to do the same.

Through the windows, I can see small icebergs floating by. The old guest book sits on a table, waiting for people to sign. Next to it is a beaming bouquet of flowers.

Our librarians have their hands full, checking out stacks of books, talking with patrons at the front desk, serving cake and drinks.

The citizens of Whitehorse are intrinsically a colourful crowd. They both commiserate over the old library and celebrate the new one.

The woodsy smell of coffee permeates the place. Normally, none of that is allowed, but today’s festivities are an exception.

The library is loud, as people meet and chatter away. I’m delighted to see that the librarians, Jeanette and Annie and others, are still the same in this ocean of unfamiliarity.

They give out free stationery and t-shirts and it’s really rather delightful. People discuss the new space as one would discuss a political debate. “So,” they inquire, “what do you think of the new library?”

Thankfully, unlike political debates, most responses are more-or-less positive.

Among others, I wander about looking at everything as if lost in a particularly exciting city. Soon I understand the layout; I conceptualize where everything is.

The first thing I commit to memory is the location of the most high-class of literature – the comic books, of course.

For the first while, I have no idea what I think of this new establishment. It certainly is larger than the last one, and is a good space.

The way it’s decorated is gorgeous, with a sort of modernism in its architecture and a painting by the prodigious Meshell Melvin downstairs.

Still, it’s so radically different from the old building it’s hard to equate the two.

The space is beautiful, soaked in white light. The children’s section is colourful, with a special “children and caretakers only” bathroom.

Despite having more chairs, there are fewer tables around which people can sit. The computers are more spread out through the building, and some find this inconvenient.

Overcoming some initial dubiousness, I begin to get used to this new second home.

“Whitehorse is lucky to have a place like this,” someone says, meaning a place where people can meet and reconnect.

The library isn’t just for reading books; it’s also a social landmark. We are indeed lucky to have a place where we can learn and grow.

I flip through the guestbook, smiling to see that most people are excited about making memories here.

The newborn library doesn’t have the experience or memories of the old one, but that will come in time. Moving was difficult, but I think we’re going to be OK now.

I’m starting to love this new library, with its globular lamps and my friends, the librarians.

I look forward to seeing kids grow up here, as I did in its previous incarnation.

It’s a rebirth. The grand opening moved me immensely. It’s good to have a new home.

Santana Berryman is a home-school student who plans to enter the Music, Art and Drama program at Wood Street School.

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