Proposed north-end library aims to increase access

Residents in north Nanaimo could start checking out books closer to home if plans for a new library in Hammond Bay are completed by 2013.

Residents in north Nanaimo could start checking out books closer to home if plans for a new library in Hammond Bay are completed by 2013.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library hopes to create a library branch in its administration office, located at 6250 Hammond Bay Rd., and also wants to expand the Gabriola island branch, located at Folklife Village, to meet the needs of the community.

The need for additional library space was identified in the organization’s Facilities Master Plan that was completed last summer.

“It is so exciting,” said Rosemary Bonanno, VIRL executive director. “The population of Nanaimo [is] being underserved, especially in the northern area.”

The administration building is 2,229 square metres, with 1,208 square metres eyed for conversion to library space. The move would allow VIRL to expand the library collection and install more public computers, lounge seating, meeting rooms and space for children’s programs.

The library on Hammond Bay Road is intended to serve north Nanaimo residents as well as people in Lantzville.

The organization has hired the Chow Low Hammond Architect Inc. firm from Victoria to create the design and hopes to go to tender on the project this fall. Estimated construction costs are $7 million.

Bonanno said VIRL will save money in the long run, because the administration building is the only one it owns and it won’t have to rent space to expand.

The library has asked the Regional District of Nanaimo to borrow money through the Municipal Finance Authority, which offers competitive interest rates and possible rebates. VIRL can’t access those funds without the RDN making the request. It intends to repay all costs associated with borrowing the money.

Bonanno said there have been questions from patrons about the fate of the Wellington Library branch, which is well used and will remain open. It had more than 613,000 items borrowed in 2010 and the computers were used 63,000 times.

Rebecca Kirk, executive director of Literacy Central Vancouver Island, is supportive of library expansions.

She said having libraries in various parts of the community increases access and are important to promote learning.

“Visits to the library are one of the easiest and least expensive ways for parents or grandparents to introduce the love of reading to children, often the beginning on the journey of lifelong learning,” she wrote in an e-mail to the News Bulletin. “The value placed on libraries is often one of the healthy community indicators that potential newcomers look for when choosing where to live.”

Libraries have become even more critical to the community with the downturn in the economy, as more people turn to them for services, she said.

Expansion plans are also in the works for the Gabriola library, which is currently located at Folklife Village. Bonanno said plans are in the initial stages and there are no details to release about the project at this time.

VIRL board members recommended that one or more branches should be considered for expansion per year. It set a target size for future facilities at a minimum of 255 square metres or 0.06 square metres per capita.

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