Library services are returning to Sayward after the community had its library branch shut down nearly four months ago.
Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has announced that a temporary library will open next week inside the village’s council chambers while a new, permanent library is built on leased land.
The temporary space is expected to follow the same hours as the branch that was closed and offer free WiFi, public computers and a selection of physical materials available for loan.
Sayward residents have been growing frustrated as time has gone on without full library services. VIRL closed the branch located inside a strip mall on Kelsey Way on May 31 due to health concerns.
Tests conducted within the library yielded air quality concerns which prompted VIRL to shutter the location. Since that time, VIRL has offered free WiFi accessible from the parking lot of the closed library, and a Books-by-Mail service for all Sayward library card-holding customers.
But Sayward resident Jan Bakker said not having a library branch has been a major concern for the community.
“The closure of the library is not a minor thing in our community,” Bakker said. “We use the Internet there, so many services must be applied for online and so many of our retired fixed income people do not have a computer or can afford Internet access at home.”
Rosemary Bonanno, executive director of VIRL, said it was clear to VIRL that there was unrest in the community and said the organization is working on a permanent solution.
“Clearly, Sayward residents love their library and use it heavily,” Bonanno said. “I know that, once built, the permanent new library will become a busy and vibrant community hub for many years to come. In the interim, we are pleased to be restoring library services inside council chambers.”
Bakker, though, questions the new location. He said that during a community library meeting held in council chambers a couple of months ago, it was “uncomfortable” and “no air was circulating.”
Bonanno stressed the location is only temporary and that plans for a permanent, prefabricated facility on land leased from the Village of Sayward are “progressing” and though a timeline and budget are still to be determined, VIRL hopes to start construction on the permanent branch in 2018.
VIRL intends to build a 1,500 to 1,800 sq. ft. building on property at the corner of H’Kusam Way and MacMillan Drive that’s expected to include a parking lot, accessible entrances and landscaping. VIRL is looking at service improvement options such as a larger collection, more IT infrastructure, seating areas, programming and meeting space.
VIRL expects to soon release information about public consultations, surveys and other ways the public can provide input.