After more than a century, this Okanagan community is losing its library | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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After more than a century, this Okanagan community is losing its library

The Oyama Library, which occupies part of this building on Oyama Road in Lake Country, will close at the end of October. There's been a library in Oyama since 1915.

The Oyama Library, which opened on Feb. 22, 1915, will close at the end of October. That decision was announced today, Sept. 22, by the Okanagan Regional Library.

This is one of two tiny branches in the system the library board has talked about possibly closing over the years, Don Nettleton, CEO of the Okanagan Regional Library, told

“This one came up for another re-look because the building was for sale and we had no idea, when it sold, whether we would have any options,” he said. “An examination was done to see what other options there would be to service that community and, when we looked at them all, it just made the most sense to service out of main branch there.”

The eight hours a week the Oyama library was open will be shifted to the main Lake Country branch at the municipal hall, which is 10 times bigger, Nettleton said.

“In 1915 the K.W.I. (Kalamalka Women’s Institute) of Oyama directed their attention to the education of both young and old in their District and the Institute Library was opened and continued to be run by members until it merged into the Okanagan Union Library in the year 1937,” reads a report on the Women’s Institute in a publication called the Tweedsmuir History of Oyama, B.C. It was written in 1951 and posted online by Lake Country Museum.A Miss Grace Heddle was the first librarian, according to the report.

The Okanagan Union Library was formed after a valley-wide referendum and is the predecessor to the Okanagan Regional Library that includes every Okanagan community, other than Penticton, and some beyond the Okanagan, such as Princeton, Salmon Arm and Golden.

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The death knell for the Oyama branch came after the Oyama Community Club, from which the space was leased for decades, put the building up for sale. Nettleton explained that the building, which is separate from the community centre, needs a lot of work and maintenance so it was decided to sell it instead. The library only occupied one-quarter to one-third of the space, he said.

As far as he knows, the building has not yet been sold.

“This Oyama library existed for historical reasons and has not met board standards or policies for branch size or location (due to the small population being served and the proximity of other nearby libraries),” a news release from the library board said.

The Oyama branch was open only from 3 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The closure will allow the remaining library in Lake Country to open eight more hours each week, with four more hours on Sunday afternoons being suggested as part of those extended hours.

“The library board and management empathize with the community and appreciate that changes to local services are difficult, particularly for small communities,” the news release states. “We believe that the approved changes implemented in the fall of 2021 will better direct the Library funding to provide more excellent services to more people in the entire District of Lake Country while maintaining local Oyama special programming and additional services such as wi-fi and a convenient book return.”

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The plan is to have library staff drive out to Oyama to provide some programming, like children’s story time and summer reading club. Wi-Fi services, that are used by Okanagan Rail Trail travellers, and the book return bin might also be provided, either by the community association or the new owner, the release says.

“This (Lake Country) branch is in the main service centre of the community, about a 10-minute drive from Oyama,” the news release states.

The other small branch that the board has talked about closing is at Silver Creek, south of Salmon Arm. So far, it’s considered too far from other branches to be closed.

Small branches also exist in Cherryville and Hedley but, again, they’re too far from other branches to close, Nettleton said.

Before COVID, the Oyama branch circulated 6,000 to 7,000 items per year. During COVID, because of the size of space, the number of people who were able to be in the building at any one time was limited. It’s now at about five, including the librarian.

The librarian who staffs the Oyama Library also works in another branch and has enough seniority to make up her lost shifts elsewhere, if she so chooses, Nettleton said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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