A Library Tale

Once upon a time, on the shores of the pacific ocean, there was a magical kingdom called Powell. This kingdom was separated from the outside world by a great sorcery called BC Ferries, leaving the citizens free to live in peace and comfort.

But all was not well. The great arena, where the citizens liked to gather and mingle, had grown old and decrepit. For a time the town wardens sought to repair the structure, but in the end it was no use. With deep sorrow, they ordered it levelled by battering rams.

When those old walls came down, the whole kingdom turned out to see. That building had been like a beating heart in the community, built by the people for the people. Now there was a nothingness, a great blank spot in the fabric of the kingdom. The beach was still there, and it was beautiful, but the only structure that remained open was a hamburger stand.

“Fear not!” cried the wardens. “We have the power to build anew on this wonderful site. Only tell us what you would like to build, as we already have a new arena.”

Then all of the citizens began to speak at once.

“How about we build a BIGGER hamburger stand?”

“What about a gated community for our valued rich people?”

“Can we please make it into a beautiful parking lot?”

“Let’s build an incinerator — I just love incinerating things!”

The town wardens looked at each other with some dismay, as these ideas did not fit the nature of the site. They were beginning to think that they should just leave well enough alone, when a small boy spoke up.

“Pardon me, sirs,” the boy said, “but couldn’t we move our library there?”

Some of the citizens were surprised. “What?! We have a library?”

“Oh yes,” said the boy. “We have a lovely little library in the catacombs below the town warden’s office. But they only have room for a few books, and the space is rather old and crummy. Kingdoms half our size have much better libraries.”

(the present library was cozy)

“Very well,” said the wardens, “we acknowledge that the library in our catacombs is too small for a kingdom such as ours. And library is a true public space, a building for the people. We will build this library.”

And so the troubles began.

By ancient custom, any decision made by the town wardens was immediately opposed. Not by everyone, mind you, but by enough people that the wardens should never feel at ease. This duty was passed from generation to generation, in a grim and serious order known only as the Naysayers. One of them stepped forward now.

“Stop at once!” she cried. “Our citizens do not have the gold you require to build this useless edifice to knowledge. The existing library is fine! Catacombs are a lovely place to keep books. And in fact, no one reads books any more. They all just read blogs on the Internet.”

One of the wardens turned to address her. “Madam, we are not asking for any of your gold today. Let us prepare a plan for the building, with all costs accounted for. There are grants and other treasures we may draw on. When we know how much gold is needed, only then can we ask for your approval.”

“Never!” cried another voice. “One cent would be too much. The craft mill may close, or a horrible plague may wipe out all our labourers. The future is bleak! We cannot afford to pay for trifles such as this, no matter how cheap.”

Now another lady stepped forward, and the crowd parted around her, for all could see from the square of her shoulders that she was a Librarian.

“This library is worth it! Knowledge is a commodity more precious than gold. It is with books that we became a wise and thoughtful people. And a library can be more than a bookshelf, don’t you see? It can restore this old site to the glory and wonder it once knew. There will be rooms for meeting and gathering, there will be fantastic art adorning the walls. Families and friends will gather inside, and the eager voices of children will ring through these walls once more — quietly, I hope.”

The Naysayers were horrified. “You cannot steal this beach from us!” one of them shouted. “How dare you replace a beach with a bloody book-bin!”

“We’re not,” said the Librarian. “The library isn’t going on the beach. In fact, it will use less than a quarter of this upper lot. The trails and forests will stay. You may find this hard to believe,” she continued sweetly, “but libraries take up less space than great arenas.”

Shouts of approval followed her remarks, mixed with a grim hissing from the Naysayers.

One of the wardens spoke up. “There is a simple way to solve this,” she said. Let us send horsemen throughout the land, and ask everyone to choose their preferred site. Whichever site has the most votes…”

“Great idea!” cried the Naysayers. “We will campaign against this site, and other Naysayers can campaign against the other sites!”

“Other sites?” asked the Librarian. She was looking kind of sad.

“Oh yes, like the site near the Sheriff’s keep, by the old woods. All those woods will have to come down to make room, so we expect a lot of angry Naysayers. Or the unsuitable site inside a furniture store. Libraries have furniture, so it makes sense to some people. Building won’t work, of course. Makes for some great arguments!”

“Not only that,” said another smiling Naysayer, “but I’ll gladly disagree with any site anywhere, because books are evil.”

“Not evil,” said another one, “but gay.”

“Not gay,” said another one, “but useless to read when you could just watch the movie.”

“Not really,” said the first Naysayer, “but since I’m rich I don’t need to borrow things. And public spaces give me the creeps.”

“There are two good public spaces,” said an older Naysayer. “Public houses and public rest rooms. Can’t have one without the other, really.”

And a little voice shouted…


It was the young boy. While everyone was talking, he had built a small tower out of their soap boxes. He was balanced there now, lit from behind by the last rays of a beautiful sunset. They squinted up at him.

“Can’t you see that this arguing gets us nowhere? Bickering won’t help. Surveys won’t help. NOTHING will help until you all stop being so negative!”

This was such a daring proclamation that for a moment, no one said anything. The boy rushed ahead.

“Powell is a great place, an awesome place. We all care for it and love it very much. But our kingdom has grown old and our love has turned to fear. Now we fight against anything that might change.

“We fight about power lines, sewage plants, smart meters, water pipes, running tracks, dog parks, bridges, trails, rehab centres, the arts, the mill, burn piles, and the colour of our neighbour’s house. We want things to stay the same. Well I’m sorry –” (here the soapboxes swayed dangerously, and the crowd gasped) “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember how it used to be. I just know that things could be better. I think all of us should trust each other a little more. I think all of us should admit that our wardens are working night and day on our behalf, and deserve a little respect. I think we should not be afraid to grow, as a community.

“It’s fine to argue about things, but at some point we have to stop arguing and do something. Let’s be positive this time. I know it’s hard, but just… try.”

A silence followed this speech, broken only by creaking of the soapboxes and the cry of the gulls wheeling far overhead.

A warden cleared his throat. “You speak pretty smart for a little guy. Are you sure you’re not reading from a script, maybe some sort of blog?”

“No sir,” said the boy. “Blogs rot your brain, pretty much. I got my smarts honestly, one book at a time. From my public library.”

At this, a sort of cheer went up from the crowd. The wardens looked out, over the sea of smiling, frowning faces. They looked back at the empty site, sitting there like paper waiting for an author’s pen. And in that moment, they decided…


Will Powell get its new library, or is it all a hopeless fairy tale? Will we move forward and build something great, or will this process dragon and on forever? Find out next time, or the time after next. Or the time immediately following that time. Maybe.

Or, if you’d like to Choose Your Own Adventure, you can help shape this narrative now. Email your mayor, council, and newspaper with your thoughts. Tell your friends, tell your kids. Once in a while, dreams can come true.

16 thoughts on “A Library Tale”

  1. Libraries are AWESOME! (and they employ young persons, librarians, janitors, computer techs, etc etc…of course I’m biased, as I worked happily in several libraries!) :-D

  2. Joseph, have I ever told you how much I love you? This is wonderful. You’ve inspired me, yet again, with your child-like crystalline vision. I will email the group of 7 plus the Peak once more.

  3. Ah, democracy. Such a messy business. No wonder our rulers hate it so. People of good will should be able to come to some sort of negotiated greement without resorting to fisticuffs. But we certainly don’t trust each other to be of good will anymore, so no quarter is to be given. And certainly no compromise. Wish I had a solution to offer….

  4. It would be so beautiful down there and would only enhance the beauty of the park and trails. Our community needs this.

  5. Why don’t they just use one of the many empty buildings in
    Powell River, they do nothing but create an eyesore.

  6. Oops, you left something out of your fairytale….

    The great arena was built on land that the good mill company owned. A short time later, the good mill company gave the people of Powell the land for only one piece of gold, making the town promise to keep the land as a park for all to enjoy.

    Many years later, all of the wise citizens voted to keep the land as a park, and the wise council agreed, putting a magical covenant on the land.

    The great arena came down, and greedy developers, who could see the beauty of the land on the ocean, tried to take the land from the people. Again, the wise people said, “We promised to keep it as a park, and a park it will stay”. The wise council agreed, and the magical covenant kept watch over the ocean-side park.

    Then one day, a man from another land appeared. He saw the park near the ocean and decided he would put his library upon it, not knowing how dear this property was to the people.

    When all of the citizens heard that a library might be built on their precious park, they begged the man to use one of the empty buildings in the town square, there were so many. He refused to listen, he had his eye on the prize.

    The people said to the man….”But there are so many elderly in this town, how can they get to your library, so far from where they live and shop”. The man ignored them.

    The people questioned the man…”But there is no money to fix our roads, or to keep our water clean, the great mill may soon be gone and the people are heavily taxed and poor”. The man snickered and scoffed.

    The townsfolk asked the man…”But why are you speaking now of adding other buildings to your library, and using up even more of the land?” The man rolled his eyes.

    “And what of the magical covenant?” they asked. The man from another land laughed and said, “What do I care of your past”.

    The good citizens then went to the man and offered to help find gold to build his library, anywhere he chose, just not on their special park. He refused their offer.

    A wise woman stood up and said “Who will join me to help save the park given to all of us as a gift”. And thousands of good people signed their names on a scroll to save the land.

    When the town council saw the scroll and listened to the thousands of good people, in that moment, they proclaimed the library would never go on the land by the ocean with the magical covenant.

  7. well this little parable pretty much nails it…..what’s going on in our little burg….it just seems so very sad and truly I believe it’s quite a lot about that silly sleazy midway that sets up at sea fair.

  8. I can’t think of a better place for a library. Looking at current trends, people are becoming more and more dependent on energy sucking technology. Clearly this is a step in the wrong direction. This is our chance as individuals to make the right decision and encourage people to take a step back to when things were simpler.

  9. that little parable at the end smacks of the americans saying Barack Obama was not an American!
    first of all there were plans in the works six years ago to put the library art gallery visitor’s info centre on that very spot before the new librarian was hired (he was hired two years ago or so).
    money had been spent on the architect’s rendering of a design for the space and it was beautiful because it included gardens and places to sit outside the building. you are not trying to save the beach it is still there and the gravel rectangle at the end of Willingdon Ave is not being used as a park at the moment. i personally would just like a better library space and have no problem where it would be located and i am one of those seniors, although i am walking everywhere and that would be a pleasant walk to the library at Willingdon.
    I believe that the angriest and most vocal of the naysayers are new to Powell River too and have not read the history of the struggle to get a new library. yes there are some poor people here but there are also a lot of wealthy ones who have recently joined us.
    it is true that as long as we have such division and so many diverse ideas we will never see the library or any other cultural improvements here, like a public art gallery which every other community has.

  10. Thanks for reading, everyone. I really appreciate it. Just remember that this site is my soapbox; if you flame other people’s comments I will likely douse you in digital fire suppressant. As our metaphorical boy might say, “be nice!”.

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