By Robert Hawkes
When the sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) opened at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 9, a large group of eager library patrons streamed through the doors to be among the first to use the new library. The library remained very busy all opening day, with a mix of people of all ages from toddlers to seniors. Extra GVPL staff made sure that the first day ran smoothly, and GVPL CEO Maureen Sawa personally greeted patrons as they arrived.
The library is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and on Wednesday evenings until 9 p.m. You can return books outside opening hours through the two automated return systems. After scanning the bar code on the item, conveyor belts behind the wall automatically sort the materials.
I attended a media event a few days prior to the opening where staff highlighted some of the features of the branch. During a tour, Jennifer Windecker, Director of Public Services, mentioned that survey respondents had requested a balance between the traditional and the modern. With automated check-in and check-out, wireless mobile device access, and many computer stations, surrounded by attractive bookcases full of traditional books, the library achieves this balance.
She also stressed that the branch has been designed as a place for meeting, with the area to your left as you walk in designed as a living room with comfortable furniture, along with chargers and cables for user mobile devices. The expanse of glass makes this a great place to just enjoy the activity of this corner of James Bay. The library features three meeting rooms of varying size, with the largest available to community groups outside of normal hours since it can be separated from the library with sliding doors and has its own access.
The GVPL Board Chair Rob Martin was on hand at the media event and spoke eloquently of the vision for the library in the community of James Bay. He said that all who were involved with the approval and planning of the branch saw it as the "living room for the community." With residential housing spaces becoming smaller, and living in a very walkable community, he said, "This library is the perfect place to meet with neighbours as well as access all these resources."
We were standing in the children's area during the interview, and Rob stressed the importance of children feeling ownership. "This is their library, a place to come to explore, to learn, to delight, to experience." He also pointed out parents being able to interact with other parents and library staff while their children enjoyed the library.
At startup the branch had more than 12,000 items available for patrons, including books, DVDs, and CDs. There is a large print section and a good selection of media resources. The very large children's area is attractive and engaging, with a twisting bookcase, a wall mounted puzzle, innovative light fixtures, and much more. A puppet theatre will support programs for children. The area of the library is about 7150 square feet.
Increasingly the GVPL sees its role as more than providing print and audio/video materials, and access to technology. It is diversifying and making other tools available for patrons. For example, this branch will have art easels available for patrons to sign out.
If you already use the convenient GVPL hold system to access materials from throughout the system, and have them delivered to your local branch, don't forget to change your preferred location to this branch.
A formal public opening of the sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch will be scheduled later in the year. Plans are being made for the Summer Reading Club, with other programs to be brought online later in the year. Last year more than 8000 children enrolled in the Summer Reading Club.
If you don't already have a library card, they are free to all residents. You can apply for one at any library branch, but bring along documentation showing your legal age and address.
The larger meeting room can be booked up to 45 days in advance. It is about 17 by 27 feet and can handle up to 30 people. The rate for non-profit groups is $35 for up to 3 hours, with $70 the commercial rate for the same space. You can see the rates for longer periods, payment options, and make a booking here.
Indeed, we have a beautiful library, a wonderful place to learn, discover and build community. Why not share your reflections of our new library in a letter to the Beacon?