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Vancouver Island Regional Library History


The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) is one of the largest library systems in British Columbia to cater for more than 430,000 people through 39 branch libraries and books by mail service. As a regional system, VIRL covers a vast geographic area, from Sooke and Sidney in the south to Port Hardy, Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast, totals more than 42,0000 square kilometers and includes a mix of urban, rural, and remote communities that work together to provide excellent library services for all its members. Its Administrative offices are located in Nanaimo.

Early History

Opened in 1936, VIRL catered for 6,100 members and had about 12,648 books. For more than 80 years, VIRL has changed dramatically. Now it is responding to the push for the latest technologies, ensuring that its branches are well-positioned with areas, resources and experience to guide clients. 21st Century libraries must balance the traditional services VIRL has always provided flexible spaces, new technologies, digital resources, and exciting programming that people expect today.VIRL has fast-growing eLibrary, 5,800 programs and 140,821 program attendees. There are 2,596,832 visitors and 5,084,711 items circulated there.

Each of VIRL member jurisdictions contributes to a pooled budgeting system. With this model, VIRL can use economies of scale, discounted prices on library materials, and a reliable eLibrary with the very latest in ebooks, audiobooks, streaming and downloadable music, movies and T.V., and online learning opportunities.

VIRL uses a floating collection, which means that no matter where someone lives, they can demand any name in VIRL collection and have it delivered to their branch. This model ensures equal access for all VIRL cardholders to the collection in print and digital formats. Library cards are free if you live or pay property taxes in the V.I. Regional Library service area.

Vancouver Island Regional Library (source: https://www.archdaily.com/614634/vancouver-island-regional-library-low-hammond-rowe-architects)
Vancouver Island Regional Library (source: https://www.archdaily.com/614634/vancouver-island-regional-library-low-hammond-rowe-architects)

VIRL also offers meeting spaces that can be reserved when not in use by the library. It proposes small rooms with a maximum capacity of 6 (Nanaimo Harbourfront branch), medium meeting rooms with a maximum capacity of 15, large rooms with a maximum capacity of 90 people (seated and standing). Rooms are available to be booked free of charge for the community.

Books by Mail (BBM) is a free mail service for customers who live in a remote location within the Vancouver Island Regional Library service area. Adults, as well as children, may register for Books by Mail to borrow books, talking books, C.D.s, and DVDs. Books by Mail customers also have access to professional librarians who can help select materials and find information.

Late History

Since 2011, VIRL has either substantially renovated or rebuilt 13 branches in communities across our service area. In October 2015, VIRL released an updated catalog that made library users' experience more straightforward and intuitive. This new catalog replaced "BiblioCommons," VIRL's previous catalog and improved usability and accessibility of VIRL's digital resources. Along with a new catalog, a new staff system was presented. So the new catalog became an improvement for both customers and staff.

In November 2018, a new website made accessing VIRL's resources easier. The site offered a design that was optimized for mobile devices, included events calendar and continuously updated and refreshed recommendations for customers, and presented VIRL's diverse resources with a user-focused menu structure.

In April 2019, the system was going through a database upgrade to ensure it is fully supported and up to date.In January 2019, VIRL eliminated fines on children's books, movies, and other materials. According to David Carson, VIRL's director of corporate communications, removing the fees meant giving access to learning materials from children from all backgrounds. Eliminating and waiving all the fines on children's materials didn't affect the system's finances as they do not make up a significant amount of VIRL's revenue. This free library card is available to any child, ages 0-12 years old, including those with existing library cards or those who have never had a library card before.

Having closed its branches due to the pandemic, the Vancouver Island Regional Library is always open in electronic form. It offers online registration for anyone who wants to take advantage of online resources like ebooks, audiobooks, streaming movies, T.V., and music.