The Greater Victoria Public Library has begun public consultation to potentially open a new library branch to serve residents in James Bay.
Last week, the library sent out a survey asking residents what type of library branch and services they would like to see.
According to Kevin Murdoch, chair of the GVPL, they’ve had hundreds of responses in the week since the survey came out.
“James Bay is quite underserved. It’s a community of 11,000 plus people who don’t have a direct branch there,” Murdoch said. “But the specifics of what services are best suited for that are yet to be determined. The reality is, there’s a huge pent up demand.”
As part of the 1994 Victoria Accord, the province and the City of Victoria agreed to establish a vision and plan for Capital Park and other small parcels of land located behind the legislature, which would include community amenities such as a library.
An agreement between developer Jawl Properties and the city, allows the city to lease space for the library.
“It’s been on the books for a long time, but until there’s a project attached to it and a place to put it, nothing has happened,” Murdoch said. “There’s an opportunity for us to put a small branch in there.”
Based on the survey questions, the library could be an express outlet similar to the Goudy Branch with a limited collection focused on popular material, a small neighbourhood branch, similar to the Emily Carr branch or, a neighbourhood branch similar to the one in Esquimalt.
Marg Gardiner, president of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, said the community has been discussing the possibility of a library for years.
“James Bay is one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods on the Island and yet we have very few amenities,” she said, adding she hopes the city will commit to a full 7,000-square-foot neighbourhood branch.
But first, the project needs to get the green light from the city, that would kick in the capital investment, while the operating budget would be shared between the 10 municipalities that are currently part of the library service.
Mayor Lisa Helps said the 7,000-square foot branch is something the city will consider.
“That’s definitely something that could happen. I think what we’re waiting for right now is to see what the community says,” Helps said. “The library is about so much more than books. The library is a space truly where community happens and so to have a neighbourhood branch is significant.”
Residents can take the survey until Sept. 11. After that, the library board will make a recommendation to the City of Victoria of what the space could look like, which Murdoch hopes to have done by September or early October.
“Ultimately, until they approve it in the city’s budget, it isn’t a project,” Murdoch said. “We’re just talking about things until there’s a budget attached to it.”