Iron workers Andrew Morgan (left) and Shayne Wright secure the last steel beam to the new library building Wednesday

Library ‘tops out’ construction milestone

Okanagan Regional Library celebrates topping out ceremony at new Vernon branch

A new chapter in construction has been reached at Vernon’s new Okanagan Regional Library.

Crews raised the last piece of steel, signalling completion of the 30th Avenue building’s skeleton, Wednesday.

That means finishing touches – windows, tile, paint – can now be made before the projected opening date of April 1, 2012.



“It is an exciting day,” said Maureen Curry, branch head librarian, joined by ORL board members to help mark the occasion.

Known as a ‘topping out’ ceremony, the event includes using a crane to raise a small, fake fir tree atop the highest and last piece of steel erected.

“The tree signifies topping off. It (topping out tradition) has been around for years and years,” said John Bowser, vice president of operations with Task – the construction and project management team.

“It started in Europe and in North America we’ve been doing it probably for 100 years,” said Bowser of the tradition that was also used on such structures as the Wesbild Centre.

In this particular case, the tree-topped final beam is a trim piece atop the stairwell, which will be surrounded by glass.

“That becomes a beacon and you can see all over the city from there,” said Bowser, of the view-encompassing stairwell.

At 30,000 square feet, plus the parkade, the new building will more than double the space of the old library (13,000 square feet).

The additional space will allow the library to not only better showcase its collections but offer a community-gathering space.

“The library is not just a place where books are loaned,” said Curry, noting children’s programs, study groups, presentations and other activities that take place at the library.

In this electronic era when some question the need for libraries, the extra space is a welcome addition for ORL.

“I think that’s something that existing libraries have been very limited on,” said Don Nettleton, ORL’s financial manager.

A large children’s area, complete with side-by-side windows is on the first floor and the adult collection, computer lab and other collections will fill the second floor.


The entire project is also on schedule and on budget, which means moving day should commence early in the new year.



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