photo of the Masset Library
Box 710, 2123 Collison Ave
Masset BC
V0T 1M0
Phone: (250) 626-3663
masset [at] virl [dot] bc [dot] ca

Professional Staff Information

  • Library Manager - Patrick Siebold
  • Community Support Technician - Etchi Zaleski

Map and Hours

Tue10am-12pm & 1pm-5pm
Thu1pm-4pm & 5pm-8pm


  • Wheel Chair accessible
  • Public Access Computer

Our Community

Masset Library

(Established 1983)

1986: V.I.R.L. 50th Anniversary

When Masset joined the family of Vancouver Island Regional Library barely three years ago, the “regional” concept became a reality.

There had been no formal library during the community’s early years; neighbours met together to read and exchange books of their own. Clarence Martin remembers his father’s den in 1912 with a whole wall of books, setting and source material for a group of friends who would discuss their interests until the late hours.

Social life was forever changed after the Great War. Drama developed as the high spot in entertainment from the twenties on, a local group cooperating to take its productions to other communities despite the difficulties of travel. Yet reading was not forgotten. By 1938 the Community Club of New Masset had built a hall, adding the John Dunn Wing in ’41. Here Nora Stewart-Burton set up a library. She had, along with Jessie Simpson, collected books and magazines for a number of years, one notable donor being Grace Frost, field nurse for Indian Affairs. Now the collection contained over one thousand volumes and was available for one hour each week to a membership of paid subscribers. One of Mrs. Burton’s concerns was a ‘lack of new books’, so she joined the Dollar Book Club in Toronto to hold members’ interest. The drama club benefited from enrolment in the University of British Columbia’s extension play lending library for which, at the 1940 rate, registration cost one dollar per year.

Ousted from the community hall in the early fifties by a furnace installation, the collection was taken under the wing of high school principal Bert Hughes, who moved it across the slough to Delkatla, into a house he rented from Dave Ruttan. Some years later the property was destroyed by fire and the books were gone. George M. Dawson Secondary School came to the rescue and shared its library facilities on Collison Avenue with the public, who had access to books in the evenings too. A group of busy volunteers added to the collection. As time went on library service was supplemented from Victoria as individuals ordered books of their choice by catalogue, these to arrive on the fortnightly steamships of Northland Navigation. In later years, shipments through the Travelling Libraries (of the Public Libraries Commission) were eagerly awaited additions to the shelves of the Masset Public Library.

When space was no longer available at the school, the Canadian Forces Station offered to amalgamate its own books with those of the Masset group. Another move, but library services continued, manned by both base and civilian volunteers who weeded and catalogued once more and filled the large room on the recreation complex with their endeavours. This arrangement continued until the area was also needed for other purposes, and a search for suitable alternative premises was underway.

The Queen Charlotte Islands Library Association, incorporated in 1973, had considered a proposal to barge to Masset the entire building and contents belonging to the Ocean Falls Library Association when that town closed down the same year. This did not materialize, but by 1976 the Association had accepted another proposal to obtain their own building. The Northwest Community College sponsored a log-building course. Students would build an 1800 square foot library under the instruction of Jim Durham. The Village of Masset obtained Crown land to lease for the purpose through the Department of National Defence; logs, cut by N.W.C.C. coordinator Malcolm Dunderdale, a student too, were trucked from Port Clements and peeled on site. Despite the assistance of many local people, progress was slow. The semester ended, money ran out, and by September the building was only one third completed, open to the weather, work at a standstill. Q.C.I.L.A. chairman John Minchin travelled to Terrace to make an appeal to the BC cabinet for sufficient funds to complete the project. He pointed out that there was no comparable facility on the Islands, and that the library would not only serve the people of Masset, Haida, and the Canadian Forces, but form the base for a “regional library” as well. The “think regional” idea was sown.

Grants were forthcoming and work resumed as others stepped forward to help. Finally, the gala opening of the Jessie Simpson Public Library took place in March of 1980, Jessie herself being an honoured guest.

Services to the reading public were now overseen by the Masset Public Library Association, renamed in 1977. Even with a new building, a Community Librarian, and many able volunteers, it felt further progress was financially limited; it could not provide additional services alone. When the Northwest Library Association met in the spring of 1982, its theme of ‘cooperation versus autonomy’ found hearing ears amongst the members of the M.P.L.A…(good tidings of Vancouver Island Regional Library had already issued from Tofino..) the “regional” concept put out roots.

Vigorous campaigning took place on the Charlottes for the next several months: V.I.R.L. director Fred White was invited to meet with interested Islanders and made three visits to explain the Regional system. Contracts were signed in 1983 for library services by the V.I.R.L. and the Queen Charlotte Islands: with School District #50, and the Villages of Masset and Port Clements. That summer the library at Masset dispersed its collection: the Canadian Forces absorbed its inventory, Tahayghen Elementary School received some junior books, and those remaining were sold both to the reading public and to those who had worked in support of library services over the years. By September the shelves were filled again, and readership was to triple – no “lack of new books” now. V.I.R.L. had arrived. The “regional” concept was in flower.

1996: V.I.R.L. 60th Anniversary

In 1983, with all the fresh stock shelved by V.I.R.L., (and few other distractions) readers were taking home more than 3,000 books a month. Branch Head Claire Sim was so busy that it took the appointment of an Extension Librarian to relieve her plight. By 1985 both an Assistant Branch Head and a page were on the staff. Claire had returned to teaching full-time by the 50th anniversary of V.I.R.L. in 1986, Andrea Gee became Branch Head assisted by Barbara MacMillan, also  former employees of the Masset Public Library Association.

The advent of cable television in the late 80’s kept many indoors, as did the increasing availability of video entertainment. The once-remote dwellings – along the road to the beach landmark of Tow Hill – obtained hydro service for part of its length, so that reading enthusiasts no longer had to peer by winter lamplight. Nevertheless, cutbacks have affected the branch, and it has been one staff member during this anniversary year. With the withdrawal of Armed Forces from the community, many of the younger bookworms will be missed as their families move out.

The log library has attracted many tourists from far away places. Little do they realize the building has been shaken by an earthquake and evacuated through a tsunami.

So much for standing on the Pacific Rim!

(Submitted by Rand Flem-Ath and Etchi Zaleski)

1997 – 2000 - Su-san Brown begins working as Branch Head as Andrea Gee retires.

2000             – The Jesse Simpson Library is given, on permanent loan, a beautiful oil painting done by T. Ustinov in 1955.

            - The Masset Branch is introduced to modern technology and cards are replaced by computers.

2001             – Thomas Cheney, a new page is hired to shelve books.  Jo-Anne Zaleski begins training and becomes Branch Head, as Su-san moves down to the Queen Charlotte Branch to take up her role there as Branch Head.

- The Masset Branch hosts a successful book sale.

2002            – Jo-Anne goes on Maternity Leave and Lindsay Banfield acts as Branch Head for one year.

2003            – Sue Hutton becomes the new casual.

2004             – Michelle Hollington becomes the new casual.

- The Masset Branch hosts a Shadow Puppet play based on the story, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. 

             – The Islands’ libraries celebrate being part of VIRL for 20 years.  Michl Konig sings a little opera to make patrons smile.

2005            - Annie Gates is hired as the new page.  Mary Disney and Brienna Altrogge are hired as the new casual. 

- Susan Musgrave does a book reading of her most recently published work, You’re in Canada now, Motherfucker. 

- The Masset Branch hosts its most successful Summer Reading Program, thanks to the help and dedication of Brienna and Mary.

2006             – John Vaillant reads from his book, The Golden Spruce. 

- Katelyn Byberg is hired as the new page. 

- A classroom storytime is launched for one year, on Thursdays


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(877) 415.VIRL