Walking through the old Emily Carr branch, Olivia Anderson can’t help but point out its shortcomings.
“This building has had hard, hard use for the last 40 years. Whatever you can say about the design, it doesn’t work for us now,” says the Greater Victoria Public Library’s Saanich and Peninsula district co-ordinator.
She points to the washrooms, down a flight of stairs from the rest of the library, making it only accessible to mobility challenged patrons by exiting the branch and walking or rolling around it.
She notes there’s too much floorspace devoted to book processing – a system that’s changed in the last 40 years – and not enough for the public.
Even from a technological standpoint, the branch isn’t up to snuff. “There’s not enough plugs for people to plug in their devices.”
The doors of the old Emily Carr branch closed for good Sunday to the public. In a month’s time, the library will reopen across the street in a brand new facility on the top level of Uptown.
“It’s a location where we can serve a 21st-century population with 21st-century technology,” Anderson says.
While the physical square-footage of the new branch is smaller than the existing one, the design will allow for flexibility, and the technology will makes things run smoother.
In the forefront, gone will be the big, bulky self-checkout machines. They’ll be replaced by small tablets that have barcode scanning capabilities. And behind the scenes, library staff won’t be sorting returned books.
“It has an automated material handling unit, so when somebody returns an item, it passes through a scanner that checks it in, puts it onto a conveyor belt, takes it down and pre-sorts it,” Anderson said. “It’s really exciting.”
Nathan Pagan, branch supervisor, has been tasked with planning the move. From getting the books and furniture across the street to having to go through 40 years worth of files, paperwork, and due date stamps, he has a lot on his plate now that the physical work really begins.
“The floor plan and layout over there is completely different. We want to make sure books arrive already in order. And you also have to have a concept that when you get over there, you know approximately where L’s going to go in the fiction section, for example, so we don’t get through moving and find out we don’t have room for W, X, Y and Z,” he says. “We’re taking one library and turning it into a whole new library.”
Pagan expected the move to begin this week. Furniture and computers were scheduled to head to the new space Monday, and the first of the tens of thousands of books were to start moving Tuesday.
The books will be put on carts in order, then shrink-wrapped, put on trucks in order, then moved down the street.
Anderson acknowledges that there are people who are sad to see the old branch go.
“There are a lot of people who are not only going to miss this space, but who have real doubts about a library in a commercial space, and who frankly don’t like Uptown for different reasons,” she says. “But we really hope they’ll come to like it as much as the former branch.”
The Emily Carr branch was renamed in September 1999. Prior to that, it was known as the Saanich-Victoria branch. Before the building at Blanshard Street and Saanich Road opened October 1972, that branch was located across the street at the old Town & Country Shopping Centre, which Uptown replaced.
“I think it’s a really positive move for the public. I think putting us in at Uptown is going to allow us to really reach out to a new population in a commercial environment,” Anderson said.
Library patrons can still drop books off at the old branch, as well as at the new branch. Books that were being held at Emily Carr were moved to the Saanich Centennial branch on Monday.
The new branch, at 101-3521 Blanshard St., will open its doors at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 6.
The new Emily Carr library will have on display a number of large prints and murals of the Victoria artist’s work.
Among those will be an image of Carr’s Odds and Ends, an oil canvas painting formerly in the GVPL’s collection, since transferred to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.