The Whitehorse Public Library will close for four weeks this spring for renovations — and that's prompted the territorial government to plan to open a temporary warming shelter in its place.
The library renovation is being spurred by the need for new carpets, but other minor changes such as more accessible book shelves in the children's section and a location change for the reference desk will also be completed during the closure, from March 25 to April 21.
"It's been a long time coming," said Ben Gosling, the director of Yukon Public Libraries. "As you can imagine, moving 60,000 resources is quite an endeavour."
Gosling says that the timeline for the closure shifted several times, in part because the library recognized the need for an alternative space to serve its most vulnerable patrons.
"Users come in of all types and all backgrounds, some people come in to access the internet, to communicate with family and community, others come to borrow resources — and it's also a place where people are able to just be a member of a community," he said.
"We took a lot of these aspects into account when trying to find an alternative space."
The temporary warming centre will be in the cafeteria at the Jim Smith Building, on Second Avenue in Whitehorse. It will be open for people who need it from March 18 to May 1 — a week before until about a week after the library's closure. There will be computer stations, snacks, hot drinks, and also an outreach worker on site.
The warming centre will be open from March 18 to May 1, in the cafeteria of the Jim Smith Building in Whitehorse. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)
Stephen Doyle, with the Yukon Government's Department of Health and Social Services, says the warming centre is considered a pilot project and that the outreach worker will transition to working at the library after the warming centre closes.
"We do intend to evaluate the project as well, see how it was utilized, what aspects of the services were utilized, who was attending — those types of things," said Doyle.
"The Jim Smith building is a unique building and we want to make sure that it's the right location for these types of services moving forward."
Doyle says this project is part of the work to diversify and decentralize services for vulnerable people in downtown Whitehorse.
"It really is a community effort to ensure that everybody in our community is OK, and offering spaces where people can go is one aspect of doing that. By having an outreach worker there too, we may be able to connect with folks who might need a little bit of extra support."