Victoria’s city council looking to find Central Library branch a new home


WATCH: After almost 40 years in a temporary location, Victoria’s central library may be moving to a new home. Considering new locations is a priority for council in their Strategic Plan draft, but as Kori Sidaway tells us, some say their focus should more be on areas that aren’t currently being served by any nearby library service.

Young, or old, libraries and the books they house, are a quiet refuge for many.

“Libraries are pillars of your community,” said Rob Martin, chairman of the Greater Victoria’s Public Library (GVPL) and also Colwood’s mayor.

“So where that library is, it becomes a central hub for the entire community.”

And Greater Victoria’s libraries are some of the busiest in the country.

“We have the highest per capita use across Canada, so our library system is incredibly engaged with the population,” said Martin.

With users up overall, the city of Victoria is looking for a permanent home for the central location.

“We’d been in that location on Broughton Street for 38 years now. And when we moved here it was meant to be a temporary location, so this is the perfect time to be looking for someplace new,” said Martin.

But the issue isn’t just location or size, it’s the design. Central Branch said their current location is good for housing books, but not people and they need a new location to accommodate the changing ways in which we use our libraries.

“Libraries have completely changed. Libraries are no longer just about books. Libraries are about youth programming, seniors, about learning how to use a computer, it’s about applying for a job, or digi-labs,” said Martin.

But currently, there is not space for all those programs. So, city hall is looking to change that with a new location.

“Right now we have the availability that we can have 50 people max in any group setting. So, we’re definitely looking for more flexible userspace,” said Martin.

But some say the city should focus on areas that are currently going without.

“I think there’s no question that Hillside/Quadra, Oaklands and parts of North Park are currently underserved,” said Jenn Neilson, who is leading up a petition for a library in the Hillside area.

“The folks that use the Central Library, they’re already being served. Should we prioritize offering library service to people who don’t currently have service close to home or should we prioritize service for those that already have it?”

An additional location may happen in the future but isn’t the GVPL’s main focus right now.

“We understand there’s a huge need, and we think that’s fantastic,” said Martin.

“But right now we’re focusing on how we help the City of Victoria achieve that downtown branch.”

That move won’t happen overnight. If city council does make this an official priority for 2019-2022, the process would likely take a few years.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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