The City of Victoria and the Greater Victoria Public Library are looking into plans for two new library branch locations in the near future.
In city council’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan draft, council identified developing a new Central Library branch as a priority for 2019-2022, and also listed establishing a Hillside/north end library branch location in 2021.
“There’s been a plan in the works for many years to create a new Central Library downtown,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “By the end of this term we want a plan in place for funding and for a site.”
Helps said the current Central Branch location at 735 Broughton St. was designated as a “temporary” site after they moved from the Carnegie building on Yates Street 38 years ago.
“They’ve outgrown the location,” Helps said. “Libraries in the 21st century are places for democracy, diversity and inclusion.”
Helps said there would likely need to be a series of grant applications, potential partnerships and potential borrowing to find a space larger than the current 34,000 square foot lot.
For Colwood Mayor Rob Martin, who is also the chair of the board for GVPL, the goal is to keep the branch in the downtown core and to accommodate recent changes.
“The reason the board is pushing for this is we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the population and a lot of pressures on the system,” Martin said. “We are the largest per capita borrowing library in Canada, and as libraries evolve we’ve seen problems, such as not having large enough flexible learning spaces.”
Martin noted that there’s been a “huge uptake” at the new sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Library branch, thanks in part to its digital labs and work spaces.
“It’s not a matter that programs are not happening, but they could be better,” Martin said.
In regards to the Hillside/north end library branch, Helps said it would be a later priority.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to plan for two locations,” Helps said, noting that the strategic plan is still a draft. “But it’s the 21st century, there are lots of ways to offer a library, and creative ways to service a neighbourhood that doesn’t have a branch.”
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