JBCP Library Story
By Moira Dann
With the new branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library opening soon in the new Capital Park project on Menzies between Superior and Michigan, the community library housed in the James Bay Community Project will be winding down in the next while.
It has long been a welcome resource for readers in the James Bay neighborhood and beyond and a nexus of friendship and connectedness for its volunteers. As it is noted on signs on its front door near the circulation desk, it is “100% volunteer powered.”
The cozy little library that’s open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 4 pm is well stocked with hardcover and paperback books (in regular and large print) as well as audiobooks and DVDs. Many of the books are donated and many (about 500) are part of the GVPL collection on loan and replenished on a regular basis.
Library volunteer Almas Musani says often, newly donated books and magazines are the most up-to-date in the collection.
She has volunteered at the JBCP library for about five years. Like many volunteers, after she retired, Almas wanted to do something to help out in the community and she had some experience from when she worked at the library in Calgary in the catalogue department. Her favourite part is interaction with people and learning more about the long-time residents of James Bay, beyond knowing if they “like Agatha Christie or Danielle Steele” and what else they want to talk about when they come in to the library for a bit of “a break.”
People come to the JBCP library for “a small walk, [to] get a book and talk to somebody,” said Almas.
That’s what she’ll miss, the people she saw regularly on Wednesday, regulars who offer her reviews of the books they had taken from the library (authors Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood are among her personal favorites). Almas will miss volunteering at the little library, but she figures she’ll find some other volunteer outlet in James Bay, adding: “I hope the new library will be an asset for all of us.”
Almas is just one of about 45 volunteers who cover 30 or so hours weekly, often working in pairs on two-hour shifts.
Winnie also took up library volunteering when she retired because “I like to read, so the library seemed like a good idea.” She’s been doing it since 2004 and enjoys “talking to people and having a good choice of books to read.” Winnie’s made friends with other volunteers and library users, but while she’ll miss the conversations she enjoys during her weekly shift, she will continue volunteering with the JBCP Senior Connections on Thursdays.
Sharon Russell has a degree in library science from McGill and worked as a librarian at Macdonald College near Montreal, at BCIT, in Regina, and in the London public libraries in England. She volunteered when she saw an ad seeking JBCP volunteers in the Beacon, but she didn’t work in the library right away. “I love libraries. I love dealing with books. I love meeting people. I like answering questions, finding things for people. It’s just fun.” She’s a mystery reader, noting that the JBCP library has a good mystery selection. Her favourite author is Jane Austin; her favourite book is Pride and Prejudice. Among more contemporary work, Sharon greatly enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Sharon has moved away from James Bay but makes the trek from her new home because of her connections to the people and the experience. She said she will miss the JBCP library when it’s gone; she’ll miss the interaction with people and working with her volunteer colleagues.
Chantelle Clark started to volunteer at the JBCP library 10 years ago when she saw a volunteer request that was just “a block down the street! There’s a library I can volunteer in!” She hadn’t known it existed, characterizing it as one of Victoria’s “hidden gems.” Chantelle likes to take care of the youth section, specifically a shelf she’s been putting together for youth at risk “because we run youth-at-risk programs here.” She also thought about what kids like and what’s popular and what will keep them learning; she points to a couple of volumes on dinosaurs. She also helped develop a kid-friendly DVD collection. Chantelle says that shelf is what she’ll miss the most when the library winds down, as well as the “person-to-person interaction.”
The James Bay Community Project would like to thank the many, many volunteers who kept the community library running so well over the years. It wouldn’t have happended without you. The JBCP would also like to thank our reader participants: You
had a need to read, and the James Bay community
created and supported a library.