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New, relocated Burnaby library now open – in a mall

From fashion to fiction: the Temporary Cameron Library is now open at Lougheed mall.

It’s the most Burnaby of libraries – it’s in a mall.

Burnaby Public Library has just opened the temporary Cameron library branch at the old H&M shopfront at Lougheed shopping centre at 9855 Austin Ave.

The library is expected to stand in temporarily for the Cameron Community Centre over the next few years as it undergoes a major $260-million redevelopment.

Guests can find the same resources and services at the bright new library, which is about 1,000 square feet bigger than the former Cameron space, according to branch manager Desiree Baron.

The temporary library is now home to the 30,000 volumes of the previous branch, including books, CDs, DVDs and more.

A novel approach

Baron said the first few opening days have been hectic, as the library has already seen more daily patrons than at the old library.

She said she anticipated it might take a while for people to find the new space.

“Nope – boom! Over 846 people on our first day,” Baron said, and since then the library has seen at least one day with more than 1,000 guests.

At the old Cameron library, there were about 600 patrons a day.

Desiree Baron, branch manager of Cameron Library in Burnaby, is ready to welcome patrons to the new Temporary Cameron Library in Lougheed mall. By Lauren Vanderdeen/Burnaby Now

Baron highlighted the library’s collections including fiction, magazines, large print and multilingual collections for both adults and children.

She added Burnaby cardholders get $5 of free black-and-white printing a month – as they do at all the city’s library branches.

The new Cameron library also includes a space dedicated just for teens and a play area for children and parents.

Baron said staff plan to start story time, ESL conversation circles and more as they settle into the space.

“I’m really excited for people discovering us, a new community of users that go to the mall regularly but haven’t been to the library in a long time – or ever,” Baron said. “I’d love for them to come and see what we’ve got and see what services we can offer to them and their families.”

The old Cameron Library at 9523 Cameron St. closed March 29, but the rest of the recreation facilities are still ongoing.

The original recreation centre doesn’t have a demolition date yet, as staff will wait for council’s direction on a timeline for moving the centre’s community programming, like the seniors’ spaces and child, to Lougheed.

Recreation staff are expected to move into the temporary facility later in the second quarter of this year, according to an April city staff report, to keep the Cameron sports programs available as long as possible at the Cameron Street facility prior to demolition.

City staff in the lands and facilities department estimated construction on Cameron Community Centre will be complete in 2027.

Gym and sport programs won’t be moved to the mall in order not to compete with a private gym.

But Baron isn’t worried about any competition with another new neighbour, a Coles bookshop.

“The library has always been supportive of the retail books industry; we go hand-in-hand in a way, because we build readership for authors,” she said.

Baron said she enjoyed the excitement of working in Lougheed in the midst of its development.

“There’s a lot of new stores going into the Grand Promenade, it feels vibrant. It’s a very different vibe than where we used to be where it’s a more park-like setting – this is more like we’re in an urban centre.”

More than just books

She said she’s visited a few other mall-library locations, like one at Bellis Fair in Washington.

“A library is the last place where you don’t have to spend any money. You’re there at the mall to do business, to shop and whatnot, but here’s an area of refuge where you don’t need to spend any money and you can just hang out and be for a while.”

Baron plays with Bobby Fowler, almost three years old, at the Temporary Cameron Library in Burnaby. By Lauren Vanderdeen/Burnaby Now

Burnaby resident Lisa O’Shea agreed.

She’s visited the library daily with her son Bobby, who’s almost three years old, the first four days since the library opened.

While Bobby played with big fabric blocks and a magnetic matching game in the kid’s area, O’Shea said the space has become something of a community hub.

“We love it, because he needs to get out more … and burn that energy,” she said.

“So this is great that he gets to meet more kids.”

And it’s not just Bobby meeting friends.

“I’ve talked to so many moms now,” O’Shea added, noting they can talk about preschools and sympathize with each other around the everyday stresses of parenthood.

The location in a mall also makes it a convenient stop after doing shopping errands.

O’Shea’s only difficulty is convincing Bobby when it’s time to go.

“Every time I need to leave, he doesn’t want to leave – doesn’t matter how long we stay.”