Some library patrons, speaking at a Saturday open house, are excited about a proposal to move the Emily Carr Branch into Uptown Centre, while others expressed concern about leasing privately owned space.
After 41 years at 3500 Blanshard St., the Greater Victoria Public Library is considering the relocation due to inaccessible and aging facilities.
Input on the proposal is being accepted online through gvpl.ca until March 18 and will be included with the 75 surveys collected Saturday.
“I think it’s an interesting idea,” said Ivan Leung, who attended the open house. “The one question most people have in their minds is that Saanich owns the building, so what happens?”
Gerry Gaydos, who visits the Emily Carr Branch almost every day, said he believes the library should remain in municipally owned space, rather than leasing space in the mall.
“Eventually you’re going to see services pared back so they can afford to keep the space you’re renting,” he said. “It’s like hospitals — we have these great, elaborate, expensive architectural monuments with not enough beds for the people who are sick and not enough doctors to make the sick people better.”
Others were optimistic about the potential change.
“I’m quite excited about this,” said Lorna Stirling. “I think it would be a nice place to spend time.”
Relocating the branch, one of the oldest in the region, was identified as a top priority in a 2010 facilities assessment of 10 library branches.
Emily Carr doesn’t have an elevator, making its downstairs bathrooms inaccessible to many patrons. The heating and cooling systems are out-of-date and the lighting system is inefficient, said Lynne Jordon, GVPL deputy CEO. And the location is locked between two major one-way roads: Blanshard Street and Vernon Avenue.
An official cost estimate has not yet been released. But the cost of renovating existing facilities would have been considered as part of the 2010 assessment, Jordon said.
“When they did the needs assessment here, [renovations] would have been one of the things that was examined,” she said.
Having Saanich lease a new space for the branch would be quicker than fixing up the old one, she said.
It’s also an opportunity to move into a modern building, which would help keep pace with the changing role of libraries — with more space for programming and electronic tools, said GVPL board chairman Greg Bunyan.
“Our issues here are not with the branch, the staff or the community. We’ve got building issues.”
The proposed space — located almost directly opposite the current branch on Uptown’s upper surface parking level — would be slightly smaller than the 6,000 square feet used at the current location. But it would be brighter and certified for green design, and library staff hope it would benefit from increased foot traffic.
“There are a lot of people over there and we want to attract new people to use the library,” Jordon said. “That seems like an obvious place to set up shop to catch those new users.”
Branch head Olivia Anderson said that while the Uptown location isn’t perfect, she sees it as an improvement.
“My staff can focus on really good service, instead of fixing toilets,” she said.
For more information and to see the survey, go to gvpl.ca.
Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The library board will review the feedback at its March 26 meeting.
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