Oak Bay library branch up for renewal

Municipality prepares to replace aging structure

Greater Victoria’s second busiest library branch is up for renewal.

More than 700,000 books were checked out of the 44-year-old Oak Bay Branch on Monterey Avenue last year, said Greater Victoria Public Library spokesperson Alyssa Polinsky. Only the downtown central branch is busier.

Polinsky said the library board identified Oak Bay as one of three branches in need of an upgrade in the next five years, but that would be a temporary fix as the branch needs a larger home.

“It’s one of the top five priorities,” said Polinsky, adding that the Nellie McClung and central branches have also been prioritized for renovation. “I believe the plan is to do minor renovation upgrades and then move on to a new building.”

The last renovation at Oak Bay was in 1999 which saw the branch expanded by 492 sq. m (5,300 sq. ft) to its current 1,055 sq. m (11,358 sq. ft) size. Polinsky said Oak Bay sees a wide range of users including seniors seeking a quiet place to read, students doing school work and young families with children learning to read. The branch is also a hub for free internet access and group study.

“The needs of (our patrons) have changed,” Polinsky said. “The building was built in 1971 and it was clearly not built for people to come in to use their tablets and laptops.”

Polinsky added the library board is giving Oak Bay a heads-up that a replacement will be needed, understanding that such capital projects take time to plan and fund.

Coun. Kevin Murdoch, vice-chair of the library board, said the municipality has a general reserve fund of about $12 million, half of which is earmarked for sewage. He recommended the district set up a library reserve fund, to reduce the amount the district will need to borrow when a new library finally gets built.

“We can always borrow money from the MFA (Municipal Finance Authority), which is totally feasible and reasonable, but it’s always better to put money aside for known projects,” Murdoch said. “We don’t know what the interest will be then.”

Murdoch added there will be a survey conducted this year on municipal-owned buildings, so that the district is aware of other buildings that may need renovating or replacing.

“The police station does not even come close to the current (building) code,” Murdoch said. “Municipal hall is getting old too.”

The Greater Victoria Public Library operates 10 branches. The Emily Carr is the most recent library to be replaced, opening at its new location in Uptown in January.