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Proposal to move Emily Carr library to Uptown

The Greater Victoria Public Library is planning to move the Emily Carr branch from its current location to Uptown. I visit this branch on a regular basis with my two year old son. We visit a variety of branches but we live in Saanich and Emily Carr is the closest. We have never had any problems finding this library or finding a parking spot. We can usually park within twenty to thirty feet of the library entrance.

Emily Carr library map

The current location for the Emily Carr branch is great and I see no reason for it to move. It is close to many existing shops and restaurants; these businesses would be harmed if the library did move. The current location is owned by Saanich; there is no mortgage to pay. If the branch moved, the Greater Victoria Library would have to lease the new space from Morguard. The lease rate has not been made public. Also of note is that the Municipality of Saanich has not said what it plans to do with the old Emily Carr location.

Apparently one reason for the proposed move is that the bathrooms are in the basement and therefore inaccessible to some patrons.  The GVPL’s reasoning here is confusing, particularly as they describe the facility as being fully accessible on the Emily Carr branch web page:

Emily Carr

Why can’t the GVPL spend a small amount of money to add bathrooms to the main floor of the current location? The current space has 8600 square feet but the GVPL claims that only 6000 sq. ft. can be used for public space. The new space would have a total of 5575 square feet (this includes non-publc space). This means the GVPL could install two 200 sq. “super bathrooms” on the main floor of the current branch and still come out ahead.

The feedback survey from the GVPL is skewed towards relocation. I do not consider it genuine public engagement at all. For example, one of the questions was, “What other physical features of a library branch are most important to you? Please indicate all that apply.”  I would have clicked “bright, clean modern facility” but I feel like that would have been interpreted as favouring a relocation to Uptown. I think the current library is just fine. To me, it is a “bright clean, modern facility” with “comfortable areas for reading” and “easy to reach book shelves” and “lots of natural light”. Honestly, who designed this survey? It is obviously skewed towards getting results that will favour a move.

For the record, I am not one of those people who thinks Uptown is a monstrosity. I like it a lot and I want it to succeed. Its Aboriginal tile fountain is (in my view) the best piece of public art in the CRD. The development as a whole is far better than the old Town & Country strip mall. That said, Uptown has a lot of unleased space. Morguard needs to lower its lease rates if it is having difficulty attracting businesses. It is not the job of Saanich or the Greater Victoria Public Library to subsidize a struggling commercial development.

This relocation plan does not seem beneficial to taxpayers or library patrons. That said, whether you are for or against the library move, please take a moment to fill out the survey. They are collecting feedback until March 18th. You can also email Saanich council at council@saanich.ca.

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