The VPL Branch Project

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Terry Salman Branch

Although the Terry Salman Branch isn’t yet open to the public, the kind people at VPL let Horatio and I come and take a sneak-peek at the new library. 

Terry Salman Branch is located in the Hillcrest Community Centre and is replacing the now-closed Riley Park Branch. The new library is named after Terry Salman, the chair of the VPL Foundation.

The library is still getting set up, so there were boxes of books waiting to be shelved and the library was still missing some furniture. However, I could still tell that this branch is going to be fantastic. 

Large windows cover one side of the library, overlooking a nice garden and the daycare. What was really cool, was that there was a window on the opposite wall where you can look right into the skating rink. Some of the kids learning to skate were adorable.

The books that were already shelved looked mostly new. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of them!

What’s going to be special about the new library is that it’s going to have a special machine that automatically checks in the returns, sorts them, and gives you a receipt! They were in the midst of installing it when I was there, and let me tell you, it looks very fancy.

I am super excited for this branch to open and you should be too. The official opening is October 29th, however, the librarians told me there will be a soft opening sometime before hand, date TBA.

I’m not going to rate this branch, at least not until it’s fully up-and-running. But judging by what I saw during my visit, the ratings will no doubt be high.

Here are a couple of photos of Horatio hanging out in the library:

Filed under Terry Salmon Branch Library VPL Vancouver Terry Salmon Riley Park

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Mission accomplished: I’ve visited every library branch in Vancouver. 

This project has taught me a lot. I’ve learnt a lot about what the VPL has to offer and more specifically, what makes each of its 22 branches unique.

I’ve also learnt that it’s hard to be an honest critic. Marking the libraries was very subjective, and it was hard to compare libraries that were sometimes so different. It was also hard to get an accurate feel for a library after only being there an hour or two.

This project also gave me some quality reading time, and because it forced me to walk through all the areas of each library, I got the chance to discover many books that I normally wouldn’t have picked up off the shelf. 

Before this summer, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you where Champlain Heights or Renfrew neighbourhoods were. But now after biking from one side of the city to the other, and back, I got to know Vancouver better than ever.

And yes, thanks to the VPL Branch Project I managed to get a decent amount of exercise during the summer.

I’m sure you’re wondering what my favorite library was. To be honest, I don’t really know if I can answer that. I loved Renfrew, Mount Pleasant, and Kensington. They’re all similiar in their big-and-new kind of way. On the other hand, I loved Firehall, Marpole, and Dunbar, in their cozy-community kind of way. Central branch might be my favorite because it has something for everyone. However Riley Park will always have a special place in my heart. 

And what’s next for Megan and Horatio?

With the closing of Riley Park Branch comes the opening of the brand new Terry Salman Branch. I’d like to visit the library when it opens and write a post about it. Besides that, I don’t really have any plans for the future. I’ve heard some suggestions that I should visit libraries in Richmond, Burnaby or North Van and review them. Or the new Surrey library. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!

The main thing I’ve discovered is that Vancouver Public Library is really, truly, amazing. If I’ve inspired even one person to visit their local library or pick up a book, I feel like this project’s been a success.

Thanks for reading,

Megan and Horatio

Filed under VPL Branch Project Conclusion

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Central Branch

Today was our last library visit and Horatio dressed up for the occasion. It seems very fitting that my last branch is Central Branch, the heart and soul of Vancouver Public Library. Within the walls of this iconic building is an abundance information waiting to be discovered.

It goes without saying that Central Branch has a ridiculously amazing selection of fiction and non-fiction books, as well as DVDs, magazines, audiobooks, etc. But I’ve discovered some other cool things this library offers that I’ll share with you in this post.

Although I’d been to Central Branch before, I’d never really explored the entire building in all its vastness. Today I perused through and around all 7 floors, and it took me almost an entire hour! Some cool stuff I discovered was:

- bean bags, kids’ computer terminals, board games, and a toddler play area down on the lowest floor in the Children’s Library

- Microfiche files: filing cabinets full of rolls of film which contain photos of old newspaper pages and other documents. They can be viewed on special Microfiche viewing machines. I’ve actually done this before and it is super cool.

- Did you know that you can take out music scores? They have shelves of them on Level 6.

- “Picture Files”: filing cabinets labeled by subject full of old original photographs (many newspaper and magazine clippings). Under “Portaits” I looked up the Dionne Quintuplets and found a folder full of random photos and newspaper clippings about them. You can even check these documents out of the library. I wonder how much longer they’re going to have this resource as everything is becoming digitized.

- On the top floor, there is a “Special Collections” area. Currently there are a number of old photos, maps, and other items on display for Vancouver’s 125th birthday. Super interesting.

The amount of information in Central Branch is really overwhelming. The layout of the building is also superb; there are librarians on every level to help you find what you need, as well as tons of chairs and study areas all around the perimeter of the building beside huge glass windows. Oh, how fun it would be to play hide-and-seek in Central Branch. 

Coziness + Comfort: 4.5/5

Selection: 6/5

Overall: 5/5

Stay tuned as I will be posting a conclusion of VPL Branch Project soon!

Filed under Central Branch Downtown Vancouver Library VPL

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Strathcona Branch

Hurray! Strathcona Branch was open! I tried to visit Strathcona Branch a few weeks ago, but it was closed for the summer. It re-opened on Tuesday.

Strathcona is special because besides being a VPL Library, it is also the school library for Strathcona Elementary. Because of this, it had one of the best selections of kid’s books I’ve seen. In fact, the library was mostly children’s books. The collection of adult material was understandably very small.

There was also a large collection of Chinese books and DVDs, both for adults and kids. 

There were lots of tables and chairs, most likely for when classes visit the library. 

I used one of the computers for a while, and I laughed when some of the sites I tried to visit (including Facebook) were blocked.

Although there isn’t much of an adult collection, Strathcona Branch was still an awesome library for kids. 

Coziness + Comfort: 3/5

Selection: 2.5/5  *but 4.5/5 for kids books*

Overall: 3.5/5

Only one library to go!!!

Filed under Strathcona Branch VPL Library

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Hastings Branch

What do you think of Horatio’s straw hat?

Hastings is a decent-sized library on, you guessed it, Hastings Street. Inside, there was a window-seat (really a window-bench) all along the front of the library. The bench even had cushions and in my opinion was the best place to sit in the library.

In the back of the library was another seating area with bright red seats. There were also some “study booths” there, as well and some old photos on the wall.

Hastings, like many other libraries, had an ESL Learning Centre where people can get help with their English for free. Hastings was the first library I’ve visited that had a collection of books in Italian. They also had a small Chinese section, and an Aboriginal collection. As well as a lovely children’s section.

Although not my favorite library, Hastings was very nice and I would recommend it to anyone who lives in the area.

Coziness + Comfort: 3.5/5

Selection: 3.5/5

Overall: 3.5/5

Filed under Hastings Branch VPL Library Vancouver

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Champlain Heights Branch

No matter how many times I walked around the storefronts in Champlain Square, I couldn’t seem to find the library. I did finally find it though, tucked around the back, behind most of the stores.

Champlain Heights library was fairly large, but looked larger because of the high ceilings. The library was very open and bright. I loved the clusters of seats facing out the large windows and I spent quite a long time there reading.

The kids’ section was great and there were posters on the wall in the teen section, which was different.

This library, like Mount Pleasant, had an ESL Learning Centre where people can get help with their english for free. 

Champlain Heights was a lovely library with a solid selection of books and a pleasant atmosphere. All in all, it was worth the long bike ride.

Coziness + Comfort: 4/5

Selection: 4/5 

Overall: 4/5

Filed under Champlain Heights Champlain Heights VPL Library Branch

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West Point Grey Branch

I had a long but enjoyable bike ride to West Point Grey Branch, which is on 10th Avenue in the Point Grey neighbourhood.

I didn’t find all that much to write about at this library. It was of average size. It had an average selection of books and an average number of computers. It did have a very nice kid’s section. And lots of magazines.

Maybe it was just the time and day I visited it on, but there were very few other people at this branch. That meant peace and quiet, and no lineups for the computers!

Although fairly ordinary, West Point Grey Branch was a nice and quiet library nonetheless.

Coziness + Comfort: 3/5

Selection: 3.5/5

Overall: 3/5

Filed under West Point Grey West Point Grey Branch Library VPL Vancouver

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Kensington Branch

Here’s Horatio chilling with a giant boar :)

In the plaza near Kensington Branch, there were actually quite a few bizarre animal statues. Besides being strange but lovely pieces of public art, these statues also serve as decent seats for people waiting for the library to open because they misread the library hours on the website. Anyways…

Last year, Kensington Library was forced to close due to flooding, however, it reopened last spring after renovations. Because of these renos, Kensington had a very new and modern look to it.

The library was large and it had a fantastic selection of books and materials. Lots of fiction, foreign language books, newspapers, magazines, and an excellent teen section, which had its own little area with seating and two computers. 

There was also a “Quiet Study Room” in which people were quietly checking their Facebook accounts. 

"Diary of Kensington Kid": Along the walls and windows in the kids’ section, were little pieces of paper on which kids had written their thoughts and summer adventures. Every week during the summer, if they wrote in "the diary" they got entered into a draw (I think). Anyways, I really enjoyed reading these and seeing life from a child’s perspective. Some of the entries were so funny!

All in all, Kensington Branch was pretty cool. It was spacious and quiet, and there were lots of books. The decor and the seats were great too. All in all, a library that I would highly recommend. 

Coziness + Comfort: 4.5/5

Selection: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Filed under Kensington Branch Library Vancouver VPL Horatio

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Dunbar Branch

Dunbar Branch was very peaceful. Compared to other libraries I’ve visited, it wasn’t very busy at all, and it had a very relaxing atmosphere that I really liked.

The library was medium-size. It didn’t have many foreign language books, but had a strong fiction section. The children’s section was really good too.

What I liked about Dunbar was the layout of the shelves. Bear with me a moment as I try to explain. The shelves at the Dunbar library form U-shapes, and you can only enter the aisles from one side. So each aisle looks like a hallway with a dead-end. I liked this because no one can come up behind you, and if you sit at the end of the aisle, you aren’t in anyone’s way. You also get that lovely feeling of being surrounded by books, and each isle is kind of like a separate little room of books. Call me crazy, but I liked it.

There were also many computers available to use, and I liked the variety of seating as well. 

Note: Dunbar Library, like Carnegie, had a couple old photos on one of its walls; photos of what the library, as well as what Dunbar Street, used to look like in the olden days. They are very cool, and worth taking a look at! 

Overall, Dunbar was a very nice library that I really enjoyed visiting. The selection of books was good, and I also liked the calm atmosphere. Altogether, a lovely place.

Coziness + Comfort: 4/5

Selection: 3.5/5

Overall: 4/5

Filed under Dunbar Branch Library Vancouver VPL Horatio

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Strathcona Branch

When I arrived at Strathcona Branch, I got quite the surprise. On the door was a sign that read: “Library closed for the summer. Re-opens Sept. 6th.”

Due to my habit of ignoring fine print and my eagerness to get out the door, I didn’t see the note posted on the VPL website, mentioning this library was closed, before I biked over there. It was my fault, but still a little disappointing.

I will re-visit Strathcona library when it opens again in September and see what it has to offer. To be continued….

PS: I’m going on vacation for the next 10 days or so, therefore I won’t be posting any new libraries. Don’t think I forgot about or gave up on the project. I’ll be back!!!

And thanks for reading :)

Filed under Strathcona Branch Library Vancouver VPL

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Mount Pleasant Branch

Mount Pleasant Library opened in December of 2009, making it one of the newest VPL branches. It’s located in the Mount Pleasant Community Centre, which is on Kingsway at Main Street. Not only is this library new and shiny, it is also big (apparently 12,000 square-feet) and has lots to offer. 

Mount Pleasant reminded me a lot of Renfrew Branch, although it wasn’t quite as big (Renfrew is, after all, the largest branch). Mount Pleasant had that same new and modern feel. The seating was sleek, yet comfy, and the windows let in tons of light. Along one side of the library, facing out the large windows, were workstations with power outlets. Such a lovely place to work!

There were lots of computers too, including some in the children’s section for kids only!

I don’t have much to say about the selection of books and resources, other than it was amazing. 

What made Mount Pleasant Library unique, was that it had a fireplace. For real. And it was turned on when I was there, even though it was a hot summer’s day. 

Another cool thing (and it’s possible they had this in a few other libraries and I just missed it), was that there was a separate room that acts as an ESL Learning Centre. From what what I understand, anyone can come in when it’s open (which is three days a week) and can get help with their English - for free!

All in all, Mount Pleasant was awesome. It has great new and modern feel, as well as tons of resources. Add a fireplace and what more could you want!

Coziness + Comfort: 4.5/5

Selection: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Filed under Mount Pleasant Branch Mount Pleasant Library VPL Vancouver

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Kerrisdale Branch

Kerrisdale Library is in the basement of Kerrsidale Community Centre. But no need to fear, this basement was free of dungeons & dragons. In fact, Kerrsidale Library was one of the more bright and spacious libraries I’ve visited. I didn’t feel crowded like I did in some other libraries, and the small windows let in a surprising amount of light (although it was a particularly sunny day). I was pleasantly surprised.

Size-wise, Kerrisdale was pretty big, around the same size as Britannia or Kitsilano. And there were lots of books too. The children’s section in particular was very nice and inviting. 

The seating was great as well. There were even some cushioned armchairs and a couch! (well, actually more like a loveseat)

Something interesting I found was a shelf of “seasonal” books. Which means mostly Christmas books and a few books about other holidays. It was so weird to see so many Christmas books in August!

No library is perfect, but Kerrisdale Library was definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen so far. Lots of selection and seating = one happy reader!

Coziness + Comfort: 3.5/5

Selection: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

Filed under Kerrisdale Branch Library VPL Vancouver Horatio

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South Hill Branch

After a lovely ride through the cemetery, Horatio and I arrived at South Hill Branch, located on Fraser Street between 44th and 45th. South Hill Branch stands out because of its colourful abstract mural covering most of the outside wall. Unfortunately, you can’t see much of it in the photo above, but Horatio wanted to post the picture that best showed off his new (skinny) jeans. 

Inside, South Hill Library was pretty average. I wish there was somthing crazy and bizarre to write about, but there wasn’t. The selection was decent, but not amazing. There were also some books in various foreign languages, which I’m beginning to realize isn’t unusual for libraries. 

The seating was limited but you could still find a seat… provided you didn’t mind sharing a table. The dozen or so computers were busy throughout my visit.

Near the back of the library, was a small room with a sign that said it was the Summer Reading Club Room. Besides a couple chairs and a table, the room was virtually empty. I guess the room is meant as an additional space where kids can read, but I’m curious as to what it is used for during the rest of the year. 

Anyways, there was nothing lacking at the South Hill Branch, but I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. Still, it is a nice local library… with a cool mural!

Coziness + Comfort: 2.5/5

Selection: 2.5/5

Overall: 2.5/5

Filed under South Hill South Hill Branch Library VPL Horatio

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Marpole Branch

I loved Marpole Branch. It had such a comfy atmosphere, similar to that of Firehall Branch. I don’t really know what it is about Marpole Library, but once I was there, I didn’t want to leave.

Marpole was medium-sized and had an average selection of everything. There were different kinds of seating and the computers were busy, but not crazy-busy.

There was also a giant spaceship in the library… I don’t know why. But Horatio loved it!

It’s not a bad thing that I don’t have much else to say about Marpole Library. It’s just a great, comfy, and welcoming library! And the washrooms were clean!

Coziness + Comfort: 4.5/5

Selection: 3/5

Overall: 4/5

Filed under Marpole Branch Library Vancouver VPL Horatio

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Britannia Branch

I know it’s confusing, but it doesn’t say “Britannia Branch” anywhere outside this library. It does say Hastings Education Centre, which confused me for a second when I thought I somehow ended up at Hastings Library instead of at Britannia Library. 

Anyways, Britannia Library is part of Britannia Centre, which is like a community centre with lots of buildings with different facilities. It’s a very cool area in a very funky -and hilly- neighbourhood. 

The library was very large and spacious. There were also colourful banners hanging from the ceiling which I really liked. The selection was good. There was a very large Aboriginal Resource section. Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese books too. 

Something I enjoyed: a “Hate List” in the teen section. You know how some libraries have shelves with “Recommended” books? Well in the teen section at Britannia, there was a small area with places to display “Books you love to Hate”. I thought that was a pretty cool idea, and it warns teens about what books to they might want to avoid. (Somebody had put all the Twilight books there).

The seating was pretty plentiful. For more comfy seating, you could go to a lounge-like area near the entrance which is actually “Britannia Art Gallery”. I admired the photos on the walls and read in this area for a while, which was quieter and comfier than in the main library area. 

Altogether, Britannia Branch is a nice local library in a very cool neighbourhood, with a decent selection of books and other stuff.

Coziness + Comfort: 3.5/5

Selection: 4/5

Overall: 3.5/5

Filed under Britannia Branch Horatio Library Vancouver VPL