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Greater Victoria libraries loaning a healthier lifestyle

Library users wishing to get active now have access to more than just fitness books and DVDs.

Thanks to a new partnership between the Greater Victoria Public Library and Saanich parks and recreation, 20 passes to gain access to any of Saanich's four recreation centres are now available to borrow from the library.

"It's so exciting for us. This is about recognizing that Saanich recreation and community centres are for everybody and us really wanting to make sure they are accessible for everyone," said Mena Westhaver, community recreation programmer for the District of Saanich. "We always want to emphasis inclusivity in our community. So this pass can be used by an individual or a family. We're closing no doors."

The passes, which will be available one week at a time, provide free admission for up to two adults and four children (ages 5-18) to Saanich Commonwealth Place, and the Cedar Hill, Gordon Head and Pearkes rec centres.

Westhaver said this program really was a no-brainer, given where the libraries in Saanich are located.

"Two of our rec centres are connected to libraries, and the other two are within walking distance to libraries. This was a natural joint partnership," she said.

The loaner passes can be used to access any of the drop-in programs.

The Saanich recreation pass program is modeled after popular existing programs between the GVPL and the Royal B.C. Museum and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

"One of our key goals is to help build strong, healthy communities. That means people are participating in their communities," said Alyssa Polinsky, GVPL's director of communications. "People learn in different ways. Some people want to pick up a book, some people want to go to an art gallery or museum. We're just looking for ways to help people engage with their community and whatever personalized lifelong learning."

Polinsky stressed that the goal of these pass programs is to provide that opportunity to residents who may not otherwise have the financial means to experience the museum, art gallery or rec centre.

"Because these programs are so popular and there's a long wait for these passes, this isn't just people going for free. We see that it's really being used by people who wouldn't be able to go any other way; they're willing to wait for it," she said.

Westhaver added that Saanich parks and rec provides many opportunities for residents of all ages, fitness levels and incomes to access programming. (For more on financial assistance programs, visit saanich.ca/parkrec/community/life.html.)

The GVPL says it is treating this new partnership as a pilot project, and hope to expand to include access to other rec centres in the region if this deems successful.

The passes are available from any of the region's 10 GVPL branches.

For more information, visit gvpl.ca.

editor@saanichnews.com

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