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Forest, rivers part of new library branch

The carpets have a pattern that resembles a forest canopy. The lounge wall is designed to be reminiscent of ripples on a river.

The carpets have a pattern that resembles a forest canopy.

The lounge wall is designed to be reminiscent of ripples on a river.

And the light wood slats and stone tiles also bring an aesthetic appeal that warms the building to a comforting and relaxing environment.

Such are the natural features found in Coquitlam's new library branch, a $15.6-million facility - three times bigger than the current City Centre location - that will open next Tuesday.

Architect Dave McIntyre of David Nairne and Associates, which has built and renovated many libraries in B.C., said community stakeholders were involved in the design process from the get-go: from organizing spaces to the finishes reflecting the city surroundings.

"There was a very strong desire to have an aesthetically pleasing facility, with large open areas, community meeting rooms and shelving on wheels to move collections easily to have even bigger spaces," he said, adding, "The building was a vacant, dark shell when it was acquired by the city so it was quite important to add as much natural light as well."

Maurice Gravelle, Coquitlam's general manager of strategic initiatives, said the city made few structural changes to the two-storey building (located two blocks south of the current branch, on Pinetree Way beside Henderson mall). A mezzanine was built for administrative offices and a board room, and all bathrooms were made handicapped-accessible.

As well, security cameras were installed in glass-enclosed study rooms behind the front counter; an elevator, security gates and check-out machines were added, as was a book-sorting machine - the first in western Canada for the manufacturer (books are electronically sorted into one of five bins with the help of a magnetic sticker on the back cover).

The city even partnered with the Evergreen Cultural Centre (ECC) to include a wall on which to hang art. Its first exhibit will have pieces from seven Coquitlam artists with diverse backgrounds "thereby celebrating a strong connection to the extensive multi-lingual and multi-cultural collection at the new library [branch]," said Astrid Heyerdahl, ECC's visual arts manager.

The wall "is an opportunity to extend the arts and culture in the city," Coquitlam Public Library director Rhiann Piprell said during a tour Wednesday.

Jamie McCarthy, president of the Friends of Coquitlam Public Library, said the 24-member society that was formed in 2003 has lobbied the city to expand the City Centre branch for a number of years to keep up with growth. The old branch was located in a utilitarian ground-floor space at city hall.

"The Friends are incredibly excited about the opening of the new City Centre branch," she said. "It's wonderful to see the project completed It's also located in a really great area that is much easier for people to get to and enjoy."

As for a mandate as the society heads into its 10th year, McCarthy said the group will continue with fundraising. Proceeds from its annual quiz night went towards buying equipment for the new branch; it's now selling calendars to purchase more materials.

"The larger location will allow for more activities to take place, including a few Friends-organized events like our 10th annual quiz night and our first book sale," McCarthy said.

The City Centre library branch (1169 Pinetree Way) will open on Tuesday, with a public grand opening celebration set for Saturday, Nov. 24 from 12:30 to 4 p.m. that will include activities for children and teens, entertainment, library tours and free refreshments. Speeches are at 1 p.m.

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