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Campbell River library ready for massive expansion

VIRL awaiting electoral approval before starting planning process
A new two-storey library may be on the way for downtown Campbell River. File photo, Campbell River Mirror

A major expansion could be in the works for the Campbell River branch of the Vancouver Public Library if voters approve the Strathcona Regional District’s borrowing of the necessary funds.

As reported previously, the SRD entered into an agreement last week with VIRL to help fund the project. Under the agreement, the district will borrow the money required from the Municipal Finance Authority, something that the library cannot do, and flow those funds to VIRL to fund the project. The agreement will not have any tangible effect on taxpayers in the region, because VIRL will cover the costs out of their Island-wide budget.

Voter approval is required to allow the district to borrow the $14 million from the MFA, but administrators are not worried since there will be no direct cost to district taxpayers. Taxpayers do pay into the library through their municipal or electoral area taxes. However, all communities on Vancouver Island with VIRL branches pay into the system. Debt financing will instead come from the larger Vancouver Island pot, which local residents pay into on a smaller scale.

“Basically, there’s going to be no cost impact to any residents. Our model as a regional library is to spread our costs across the whole system,” said VIRL director of finance Joel Adams. “Rather than Campbell River having to borrow directly and the residents have to fund that through a tax increase or other measures, it is incorporated into our budget as a regional system so there is never a spike or associated increase for the residents.”

In 2019, a letter from the City of Campbell River to VIRL identified a few options for library expansion, which included the option of demolishing the current branch location and rebuilding. VIRL decided that option was most feasible to them, and are proceeding down that route. Under the agreement, the city will be responsible for the demolition and remediation of the site, and VIRL will cover the costs of construction through the funding model as described.

While it is still too early for VIRL to have a complete plan in place for the new building, Adams said the idea is to have it be roughly 20,000 square feet split over two floors. Exactly how that will be done is yet to be determined.

“Until we know that the borrowing is going to be in place, we don’t commit too much of our planning time to it,” Adams said. “We’re kind of in a bit of a holding pattern right now. We’ve committed to the project, Campbell River has committed to the project and the district’s committed to the borrowing.”

“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he added.

When the library is under construction, Adams said the branch would likely be moved to either a rented retail space or another government-held site to ensure service is maintained. In other similar projects, that has either been in a space held but not used by either the municipal government or the regional district or a nearby retail-based rental.

VIRL will be holding community consultation events and will have many chances for people to voice their ideas and concerns about the new library. Those events will be planned after the funding has been secured and will be communicated to the public.

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