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Newcomer to Vancouver: A love letter to the West Vancouver library

In this regular column, North Shore News reporter Mina Kerr-Lazenby shares the ups and downs of moving to Metro Vancouver, and all it entails.
If natural disaster ever hits the North Shore, you'll find reporter Mina Kerr-Lazenby seeking shelter, and maybe a cup of tea, in the West Vancouver Memorial Library. | Kevin Hill, North Shore News files

To the West Vancouver Memorial Library,

When the apocalypse arrives and we’re all scrambling to seek refuge from robots that have enslaved mankind or some form of cataclysmic weather event, you will find me hunkering down nearby, finding solace within your West Vancouver walls.

Not because you are particularly safe or seismically upgraded – in fact, I imagine you would crumble like the butt of an incense stick in seconds if the Big One were to arrive, no offence. But because, in this home away from home, you have become an unexpected sanctuary.

Like my own personal TARDIS, your quaint, daffodil lined exterior is deceptively contradicting of the vast space that awaits within, and your interior is forever shape-shifting to adapt to my mood and needs.

When the weather is inclement you are warm and snug and welcoming, your wooden timber frames and bricked feature wall reminiscent of a cozy, winter’s cottage. On sunny days you are bright and clean and crisp, the dappled rays that filter through your large windows turning your space into a large, lounge-worthy conservatory.

You are busy enough for people-watching when I am looking for stimulation – serving up a ceaseless conveyor belt of laptop toting youths and cute elders – but never so busy to a point of distraction.

Your rules are adequate enough to keep out the riff-raff (most of the time, anyway…) but not so draconian that I’d be crucified for breaking the hush with a cough.

Within your walls there is a quiet understanding among library goers that snacks are absolutely vital, and when study silence is broken by the rustling of a wrapper we give each other a smile and a permission-granting nod. Go forth and graze, fellow library lover.

That is, of course, providing that the snack in question is a cereal bar or two and not an entire family pack of Doritos. My own enforced rule is anything beyond three wrappers and a few minutes of audible crunching is the limit, because four wrappers is like a cacophony of cicada, and thus a lifetime ban, and probably an appointment with a nutritionist, should be enforced.

While we’re laying it all on the table, and while we’re on the topic of snacking, I suppose I should make another, less lustful, admission. Forgive me, WVML, because I did once open and chow down on a tuna sandwich while within one of your study carrels. I’m not sure why I did it … I was hungry, yes, but perhaps a large part of it was just to see if I could.

I got away with it, but let it be known that the guilt of unleashing such an offensive food item on unsuspecting library-goers will likely stay with me till the day that Big One comes and wipes us all out for good. Am I forgiven, beloved library?

Oh, and please give my thanks to the woman who runs your humble cafe, the one in the fabulous blouses and the bright skirts, whose wink and smile welcomes me each time I enter as though I am an old friend and not a newcomer.

I appreciate her patience as I painfully count out the coins to purchase my English breakfast tea, like a septuagenarian at a bus driver’s counter holding up an agitated queue. (Why does a five cent coin look so bloody similar to a 25 cent coin?) I appreciate her thoughtfulness for getting my order ready without request and even when I’m the last in the queue, and for occasionally filling my cup free of charge. (Please don’t fire her.)

Whenever I’m plagued by writer’s block I wander your aisles and fondle the books that line the shelves. I pick up something and read a few quick paragraphs, my eyes flickering from left to right like windscreen wipers in a storm, and then I pop it back on the shelf, sufficiently inspired.

There are few places that have this motivating effect on me, you are in a realm entirely of your own. On deadline days or working from home afternoons I shift about from place to place like Goldilocks on a quest for hypergraphia instead of a good night’s kip. Home is too stifling, cafes too loud. In the end I always end up crawling back to you in West Vancouver. Mr. and Mrs Plumtree always welcoming me back with open arms, no judgment. Ah, just right.

One day when my novel is published or my Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalism piece on Canada’s best snacks is written, I will have you to thank for providing me the space to put it together, but until then, all you have is this measly ode.

A smitten West Van resident

P.S. This isn’t a secret ploy to get an endless supply of tea on the house. However, if you were to offer such a thing, I would not object.

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