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Surrey Libraries Strives to Keep Up with Surrey’s Growing Needs

As Surrey continues to grow, so does widespread use of Surrey Libraries and all their resources.

Many of you probably know that Surrey is one of the fastest growing cities in British Columbia and one of the fastest in Canada. Nearly 1,000 people move to Surrey every month, meaning that demand for programs at Surrey Libraries has never been higher.

Not only does Surrey Libraries have to keep up with the growing population in Surrey, but they also have to keep evolving with the ever-changing landscape of libraries in the 21st century.

Surrey Libraries Offer More Than Just Books

When most of us think of going to the library, we envision scanning bookshelves and picking up a couple of books before going home to read.

The reality is, the landscape of libraries has drastically changed.

“One of our biggest challenges is promoting what libraries are all about today,” said Surrey Libraries Director of Marketing & Communications, Seline Kutan. “Many people think that libraries aren’t relevant and that you can just go to Google instead.

“The reality is that not everyone has access to computers or Google. The computers in our branches are in constant use and we often don’t have enough computers or computer time for individuals.

“Imagine your life if you had no access to the digital world – we all rely so heavily on the information we get online. Libraries play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide and supporting marginalized communities who might not have access to these things.”

Aside from offering computers, Surrey Libraries strives to work on giving the public places not just to learn, but to flex their creative muscle.

“Libraries are shifting from places where people access information, to places where people can create content. There are libraries out there with rooms for podcasts, and maker spaces where people can make all sorts of things and collaborate.

“The community is asking for these things,” Kutan said. “In a recent survey we conducted, many people said they would use the library more if we had more programming and programs that helped with creative efforts.

“The survey showed that the public just wants more of everything from us: resources, programming, and collections. Libraries try to be everything to everybody and that’s a difficult task.”

These are examples of the types of offerings that Surrey Libraries wants to make widespread, but they are currently limited in what they can offer.

“We have the thirst to provide these additional services to people but not the resources,” Kutan said. “Our current funding doesn’t stretch to build rooms for podcasting. We would also need to educate staff so they know how to assist people with these additions features.”

Community Programs Offered by Surrey Libraries

Every day, there are multiple programs being offered by Surrey Libraries to the community. Here’s a rundown from Kutan of programs you can support by donating.

  • Storytimes: “Our biggest branch of programs. These are events in the branches where parents bring their children and librarians read to the kids and get the kids engaged in the books. It really encourages a love of reading and supports early literacy.”

  • Surrey Kids Summer Reading Club: “Of libraries who offer this program, we have the largest enrolment in the province. Over 15,000 children participate in the summer reading club each year. Each branch does a wonderful job of supporting that.”

  • Read to Baby: “This is a fully donor funded program, and we would not be able to do it without donations from the community. With this program, parents of newborns are given literacy kits with baby board book, CD, and information about the benefits of reading to your children early, along with information about your local library. Fraser Health home nurses deliver these kits to families who need it. We delivered 1,500 kits last year which included French, Punjabi and Indigenous kits as well.”

  • Readability Services: “These services are available for home-bound people, those in long-term hospital care, or those with print disabilities. Volunteers deliver books and special materials to people who have trouble reading, may be going blind, or people who can’t hold a book due to other disabilities.”

  • Language and Learning Resources: “We have many on-line learning resources including the language-learning platforms: Mango Languages and Rosetta Stone. Library patrons can also access, an online learning platform that helps anyone learn business, software, technology, and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals. We also provide access to academic journals, platforms to search for employment, and many other resources.”

E-Books Come with Greater Cost

If you thought reasons why Surrey Libraries needs funding was limited to programs, think again. Even the changing landscape for their most basic offering of books is driving up the cost for libraries.

“The circulation of physical materials is declining, however, circulation of our electronic resources are going way up,” said Kutan. E-books and e-audiobooks are extremely expensive compared to the cost of physical materials.

“A book comes in, gets circulated, and so long as the book is in good shape, it could circulate for years. Most electronic books are licensed so that publishers put a cap on how many times that book can be downloaded, so as a library we are paying higher costs to provide access to those resources.

How You Can Help Surrey Libraries

Surrey Libraries has set up an endowment fund with SurreyCares which can be accessed right here on our website. Kutan also says you can visit the Surrey Libraries website to make a donation and that donors who have questions are more than welcome to call them and speak to the Manager of Philanthropy.

“In terms of promoting philanthropy, what SurreyCares provides to the community is really valuable,” said Kutan. “It’s a valiant effort for organizations to help manage and promote endowment funds that will help with the sustainability of a charity. It’s a wonderful thing that this foundation provides to the community.”

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