Petition targets lack of books at Nanaimo’s Harbourfront library

NANAIMO – Library users believe fewer titles available to public after Harbourfront branch renovation.

It feels like the collection at Nanaimo Harbourfront Library has been “whittled away,” says former librarian and bookstore owner Thora Howell, who is helping to collect signatures to bring back the books.

The Harbourfront library reopened in October after a seven-month renovation project, estimated at about $900,000.

The library claims it’s still stacked with plans to expand its children’s section, but Howell said all you have to do is go into the branch to see the “incredible absence of material.”

Howell, who previously owned Bastion Bookstore, said she’s a huge supporter of libraries and is a former librarian herself, but she and about 10 to 15 other residents have concerns about the new renovation.

She believes the collection was once at  120,000 items and now sits at 35,000. There are fewer books, said Howell, who adds that as far as she can tell, there was no consultation with library users. A photography section disappeared some time ago and the Pacific Northwest Room has been dissolved, she said.

“That library doesn’t reflect anything of this community, it just doesn’t,” said Howell,  who’s now collecting signatures on the petition.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library saw concerns in an anonymous press release distributed last week and wrote a retort to “correct misstatements” and provide clarity. It says before the refurbishment it had the capacity to hold 120,000 items but actually held 50,000.

Communications officer Natasha Bartlett said there was no major effort to get rid of books but an estimated 5,000 books have been redistributed into the general floating collection, which is available to all library users, not just those browsing the Harbourfront library.

Books could have also been donated to charity as part of a natural weeding-out process.

“I’d be lying if I said no books were discarded between the refurbishment period and when we reopened simply because there’s a natural process all of our branches undertake to get rid of books no longer in good form,” Bartlett said, adding books are still a “large portion” of the library’s expenditure.

The Pacific Northwest Collection is still available in the floating system.

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