A Look at the New Library
by Robert Hawkes
James Bay residents have excitedly watched the new library branch take shape within the Capital Park project at the corner of Menzies and Superior. The excitement level rose when the Library Opening Soon banners were posted, and then as furniture and books arrived and were put in place. Note that the branch had not yet opened when this article went to press.
The library (see the graphic) features a family-friendly large children’s area near the windows, a teen area, and various seating options including lounge reading chairs, bistro seating, high tables and chairs. Innovative mobile shelving allows a flexible configuration, should community needs require changes in layout. At about 7150 square feet, with high ceilings and expanses of glass, the library feels spacious, bright, modern and welcoming.
The library branch will offer a total of 18 computer stations, 12 for general use, one adaptive unit with large monitor and larger keyboard for special needs use, two computer stations in the teen area, and three more in the children’s area. In addition, there is a laptop bar and mobile charging stations for those who bring their own devices. An outdoor Wi-Fi enabled reading space near the library provides another option. The library is equipped with two automated book return stations so users can return their own materials.
Last month the Victoria City Council and Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) officially announced the name of the branch: sxʷeŋ’xʷəŋ taŋ’exw James Bay Branch. Pronounced as s-hweng hw-ung tongue-oo-hw, sxʷeŋ’xʷəŋ taŋ’exw is the Lekwungen name for James Bay. More than 600 entries were received in the Name That Library campaign, with widespread support for a name that recognized the First Nations.
As well as the wealth of materials housed in the lsxʷeŋ’xʷəŋ taŋ’exw James Bay Branch itself, residents can place holds on books, audiovisual materials, etc. from elsewhere in the GVPL system, and then pick them up when they are ready at this branch (and return them here).
There are multiple community meeting rooms of different sizes (see graphic), with the larger one having the capability of being closed off from the rest of the library through vertically sliding partitions, and it has its own exterior door for use outside hours when the library is open.
One of the meeting rooms was named in honour of Dr. Elmer Seniemten George, a Songhees Elder and a scholarly steward of the Lekwungen dialect and culture. His translation of the Douglas Treaties has provided an important context and foundation for reconciliation. He was previously honoured with the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada, as well as an honourary degree from Royal Roads University.
The other meeting room is named in honour of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, a former James Bay resident and local merchant. When he was elected to Victoria City Council on Nov. 19, 1866, he became the first black person elected to public office in British Columbia, and one of the first in Canada. The City of Victoria declared November 19 “Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Day” in his honour. His former place of business was not far from the location of the library branch.
The sxʷeŋ’xʷəŋ taŋ’exw James Bay Branch will be open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with one evening open until 9:00 p.m. (which day of the week had not been confirmed when this article was written). As for the rest of the GVPL system, the library will also be open seasonally from 1-5 p.m. on Sundays during part of the year.
While we all look forward to the facilities of a full service library in our community, this is also a good time to thank and recognize the incredible group of dedicated volunteers who maintained over many years the wonderful community library at the James Bay Community Project. They provided an extensive collection of donated books, attractively presented. Perhaps even more importantly, they offered a warm welcome and a friendly chat to all who dropped by. They have undoubtedly touched and enriched lives in ways that they will never fully realize.