Board any public transit vehicle and have a quick look at your fellow passengers; you’ll be hard-pressed to find any one of them reading a book. Why read when technology allows you to watch a video or socialize with friends?
These developments are all part of a world that has seen traditional face-to-face conversations being reduced to short form text messages or emojis. At times, it feels we’ve gone from being infatuated with new technology to becoming dependent on it, needing it with us during every waking minute.
Too important to disappear
So, if books are losing their popularity it should follow that public libraries are becoming barren, empty buildings regarded as so last century. However, in recent years we have seen an upsurge in library usage.
In case you haven’t noticed, libraries have become more than just a place to borrow books. They are re-establishing themselves as a vital community asset. They are now the destination for public computers, free wifi, e-books, literacy programs for young children, meeting spaces for community groups, even so called “petting zoos” which provide opportunities to explore tech gadgetry.
By going back to basics – providing important services – libraries have been adapting and thriving.
A recent study found the generation most likely to use a library are millennials. While this was a U.S. study, the findings are not expected to be any different in Canada.
The library: Bright, shiny, useful
Going forward, for those in the commercial retail estate industry, having a public library as an anchor tenant could have tremendous benefits. A modern public library will generate high traffic flows and will complement a neighbourhood plaza which offers a mix of retail and service outlets.
For this to happen, we need to be focused on working with municipalities to have these centres in the most advantageous locations for their residents.
This emerging awareness of the importance of libraries might help to reverse a trend that has left them as an easy target for some politicians when there’s been a need to find budget savings.
Thankfully, we are now living in a period where they are valued for what they offer a community.
It is important this revitalization filters down to the many smaller, but just as important, local public libraries. They are, after all, sometimes the first points of contact for immigrants and refugees, or those looking for work opportunities or advice on available services.
One plaza in the ReDev Properties portfolio has a library that offers a drive-thru book return, illustrating how every outlet has to be tailored to the needs of the individual community.
The growing awareness of the drawing power of libraries should encourage landlords to strive to work proactively with library boards – allowing libraries to become an integral part of a plaza development. Those synergies will benefit both public and private enterprises by offering more convenience to residents and improving the status of their neighbourhoods.
About ReDev Properties Ltd.
The asset management company, ReDev Properties, was founded by Richard Crenian in 2001. Its expertise is in carefully and diligently locating existing commercial real estate properties and providing the necessary stability and future growth to ensure the assets increase their value.
The company works to closely partner with high net worth individuals, family offices and institutions for joint venture opportunities, and is always looking for future projects to assist with developers and acquisitions on equity, financing and business expertise.