The Pitt Meadows Library has changed much over the last 40 years.
It has moved three times and seen the services it offers morph as the world has entered the digital age.
Up until early 2020, there was one constant that local library goers could count on.
Sandy Richardson would always be on hand, ready to aid with some research, recommend a book, or simply provide an ear.
She has been with the library since 1978 and finally decided to call it a career in January.
Library manager, Shawna Kristin, said the loss will be tough on the community hub.
“We’re saying goodbye to a huge resource of information about community and the people in the community and about how the library has served the community for the last half century.”
At a goodbye party on last Friday, Feb.28, folks from all walks of life and a handful of generations dropped into the library to tell Richardson how important she has been to them.
“I was talking with an individual who was here today celebrating her, that said she can’t really separate the library from Sandy.” Kristin said.
“Sandy is the library to that individual.”
Kristin was amused by all the different folk who stopped in for a chat.
“It’s really fun to see the wide variety of people who have come to say goodbye and that’s variety in a very diverse sense of the word,” she said.
“I was just in there talking to a two-year-old and earlier a 91-year-old came to say goodbye, so Sandy has reached so many people in her role across different ages and spectrums of the population.”
A 48-year stint in rooms surrounded by books was not originally in the cards for a young, headstrong Richardson.
As a teenager in White Rock, she graduated at 15 and was working at a cafe and on the door at a nightclub, when her mother – a literature major – suggested she apply at the Ocean Park Library.
“I thought to myself, ‘What is she thinking?’
“You have to be quiet, I’m not a quiet person,” Richardson said.
Although timidity was not a trait of hers, a love of books was, so she took the job, never assuming libraries would be her second home for almost 50 years.
At the time, the next youngest person in the Fraser Valley library system was still Richardson’s senior by a good 20 years but as fate would have it, she would end up managing the Ocean Park Library within a couple years, when her boss fell ill.
When Richardson joined the Pitt Meadows Library the city was nowhere near the size it is now.
The facility was in a single-storey house, and Richardson says the only traffic light was at Harris and Lougheed.
She recalls when Brad Sharpe, son to former mayor Danny Sharpe, used to tie up his horses outside the library.
“That was an eye opener for me,” she said.
“He didn’t do it often but on occasion. Maybe he wanted to see how I’d take it. There was a lot of testing of the character of the new person that comes in.”
Richardson’s character was not in question for long and she quickly became a valued member of the community, earning herself a citizen of the year award in 2007.
The library is more than books and information, she will share with any interested to learn.
It’s a place where people gather, where people have conversations and debates, and sometimes it’s a place for people who think they have no place else to go, Richardson insists.
A recent Facebook post, which reminded her of an incident when she was able to provide some help, made her tear up a little.
She tells the story of a lady in her 30s who she found sitting at the circle of computers one night when it came time to lock up.
“I knew her to say ‘hi’ and would see her when she came in and I said, ‘We’re locking up now,’ and she broke into tears,” Richardson said.
“Her partner had kicked her out of the house that night and that’s why she’d come to the library.
“She had nowhere to go, so I said, ‘Just stay there.’”
Richardson said she locked up and the pair just sat and chatted for hours. To this day they will still keep in touch from time-to-time.
“It wasn’t a big amount of time out of my day, or my life, but for her, she says that was where she felt accepted and the fact her partner had kicked her out didn’t mean she wasn’t lovable,” Richardson said.
“I knew at the time it was a big deal for her,” she continued. ‘ButI didn’t realize how much of a big deal it was, that I took that time out of my day to do something.”