Queen Charlotte

photo of Queen Charlotte Library
Box 339, 138 Bay, Community Hall
Queen Charlotte BC
V0T 1S0
Phone: (250) 559-4518
Fax: (250) 559-4518
queencharlotte [at] virl [dot] bc [dot] ca

The Queen Charlotte library branch opened in 1983. Prior to this, Queen Charlotte enjoyed a community library service for many years. The location in the Community Hall was refurbished in 2007.


Professional Staff Information

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

Map and Hours

Tue10am-12pm & 1pm-5pm
Wed1pm-4pm & 5pm-8pm
Sat10am-12pm & 1pm-5pm


  • Wheelchair access
  • 2 Public Access Computers

Our Community

Queen Charlotte Branch

(Established 1983)


1986: V.I.R.L. 50th Anniversary

(Submitted by Edith Bell, 1986)

The history of the local Queen Charlotte Library is more than a history of books. It is the story of a small, determined, and dedicated group of people who believed in providing our community with a top notch library.

Back in the 1950’s Harold Riley and Bert Roberts gathered together their own books, and with donations from other community members, and an Encyclopaedia set from Bert, the library was open.

The home of the first library was in the back room of the old school building which was located where the Continuing Education trailers are now.

In 1965, Christine deBucy was looking after most of the Library organization and it is largely through her unfailing efforts that the library grew from its small beginnings to a real library collection. Chris was known to visit throughout the town talking people out of books for the library’s use. Her husband, Sergius, was kept busy building more shelving. When part of the old school was moved to the community hall to become the Annex, the Library moved to an upstairs room outside the projection room door. What seemed a very large room soon became a very crowded room. When the other half of the old school was moved to the present site the library was in need of a larger space.

The School Board was now renting the old building for storage space. Through the efforts of Jeanne Karlson, permission was given for the library to rent the front half of the building. Sergius was again called upon for shelving. The library now needed an income, besides the book fines of 2 cents per book per day overdue fines, to pay for rent, heat, and lights. The idea of a town Thrift Shop was born. Before long the library had taken over the back room of the building for the sale of second-hand items. Mrs. Irene Riley and Mrs. Sybil deBucy (known as Gran around the library) were instrumental in the operation of the Thrift Shop. The building had suffered in the moving. The floor of the back room had pulled away from the wall so much that items could drop through to the ground outside. In spite of plugging the gaps with rags and boards the whole building was always cold. To raise extra money the library group held annual book sales in the basement of the Legion. The Queen Charlotte Women’s Auxiliary gave annual donations to help with expenses.

By 1968 Chris deBucy became too ill to continue on with all her community efforts, so Edith Bell took over the coordinating of the library. She and a small core of volunteers kept the library open three times a week. Those were the days of a very inefficient heater. Snow knocked off your books one week would still be sitting there beside the heater the next week, unmelted.

The library always had its eye out for a more suitable location. Edith Bell almost got government approval to purchase the old Haida Hotel for $1.00, but at the last minute the owner paid the taxes. About that time there was talk of Ocean Falls closing down. The Queen Charlotte Library was promised all their books for the cost of shipping. The town didn’t shut down so no books. A shipment of books was received on loan from the Open Shelf Library in Victoria twice a year, so members always had a supply of “new books” to keep them happy. Canada Council donated a large shipment of books to the library and with a $500 bequest from the H.R. McMillan estate, many new books were purchased.

As the library collection grew so did members’ interest in helping with the library work. A volunteer Library Board was formed to help Edith Bell and Gran deBucy with the behind-the-scene duties. When the old Community Hall burned down and plans were being drawn up for the new hall, library members on the planning committee were so vocal that a room was planned for the library under the stage area of the new hall. Senior citizens were also asking for space so the library area was cut back to make room for the Seniors.

When the new hall was finished in 1976, the library planned to move only the books, leaving the Thrift Shop behind in the old building. Using what money the library had for materials, Alan Bell began on the shelving. Edith Bell, with the welcome help of Isabel Roth, began the sanding and painting. A generous donation from Bonita Sanders paid for the paint. When not painting, Edith Bell and Sybil deBucy packed up boxes of books. If people wanted to visit the Bells they came to the new library with a hammer or sandpaper and helped with the work.

In late 1976 the new library was ready for business. A Grand Opening was planned by the Library Board: Edith Bell, Winnie Kirk, Sybil deBucy, Ann Mountifield, Carol Ives, Marlene Specht, and Evelyn Hansen. Tea, cake and prizes were served to the public on February 19, 1977. The large librarian’s desk built by Ilted Perkins was much admired. The shelves of books had been properly catalogued by Patricia Hendrickson under a Summer Work Program. A card catalogue system was organized and a proper check-out procedure established. (Remember the old days when members had to write out the title of every book checked out?) A second Summer Work Grant enabled the library to be open every day and saw the fiction section catalogued.

The new library was still operated by volunteers. Evelyn Hansen and Marlene Specht did the cataloguing of new books. The Community Club paid for the heat and light and did not charge rent, but money for books was still needed. A patchwork quilt was made by library members and then raffled. Other raffles were an afghan, a rug, and a doll and outfit.

The annual book sale was held, as well as a flea market. The Queen Charlotte Women’s Auxiliary continued its annual donation towards expenses. Bonita Sanders continued her generous cash and book donations.

As well as money-raising events the library board members found time to sponsor visiting author nights. Some authors brought to the islands were: Lynn Hancock, Susan Musgrave, Hillary Stewart, Christie Harris, Ron Nelson and Bill Freeman. Slide-show evenings were also sponsored. For some time a Saturday morning Children’s Hour was held.

Still looking for financing, the library became, officially, the Queen Charlotte Library and Information Center in November 1978. The library was now entitled to a much-needed book grant.

Still in need of a steady, reliable source of funding, an application was made to the Regional District for a referendum. In order to hold a referendum the library had to present a petition signed by a majority of property owners. So, in the cold and snow of October, the Library Board members Jenny White, Marlene Specht, Edith Bell and Carol Brown went out to convince homeowners of the benefits of a Library Referendum. Their efforts were successful. The referendum was passed in November, 1980. The library now had solid funding of $2,500.00 per year to be received in August the following year.

To ease the work of the volunteers, Mrs. Melanie McKenzie was hired to work as librarian in October 1981 at $5/hour.

In the summer of 1982, the creek water supply to the Community Hall and library again became unreliable. A well was decided on and the library donated four hundred dollars towards the cost of well drilling.

Also in 1982, talks were held with Fred White of the Vancouver Island Regional Library system to explore the possibility of the Queen Charlotte Islands libraries joining the regional system. After discussing the pros and cons of joining, the Masset, Port Clements, Queen Charlotte and Sandspit libraries approached the Queen Charlotte Islands School Board. The School Board was the only duly elected body which represented the whole islands. The School Board approached the Vancouver Island Regional Library Board on the libraries’ behalf. In April 1983, word was received that the Queen Charlotte Islands would be accepted into the Regional system.

As the Regional System did not want the existing book collections, a big book sale was planned: first to library workers, then to library members, then to members of the community. The last of the tax money from the Regional District plus the money from the sale of the books was used to buy new furnishings for the library. The Library Board recommended Melanie McKenzie as the Regional District’s hired librarian as she had done such a good job for the “old Library Board”.

In October, 1983, the Queen Charlotte Islands School board appointed Mrs. Cathy Nelson to be the Library Trustee to represent the unincorporated areas of the Queen Charlottes on the Vancouver Island Regional Library Board.

A grand opening of the “new” library took place on May 26, 1984. Tea, cakes, balloons and doorprizes. A happy and sad occasion.

On February 19, 1985, at the home of Edith Bell, the “Old Library Board”, consisting of: Edith Bell, Cathy Nelson, Marlene Specht, Jenny White and Barbara Rich closed the books. After thirty-plus years the Library had become the place that Harold Riley, Bert Roberts, Chris deBucy and Sybil deBucy had envisioned so long ago—a large, bright, well-stocked and well-managed library that offered all the advantages of a city library. The volunteers were out of work.

The above information was taken mainly from an earlier library “history” which had no dates included. The dates and names were verified from old Q.C. Women’s Auxiliary minutes, Library minutes, and the earliest part was checked by talking to “old timers”.

1996: V.I.R.L. 60th Anniversary

1982: There were two public libraries on the Charlottes – Masset Public Library Association and the Queen Charlotte Library Association. Port Clements had facilities but a defunct library association, and the Provincial Government had recently offered Sandspit a reading centre.

The two existing library associations both had buildings (the Masset log house and the basement of the Queen Charlotte City Community Hall), received book grants from the Provincial Government (twice a year a shipment of books was received on loan from Victoria’s Open Shelf Library), and were locally funded through fund-raising (raffles, etc.), and a small tax base through the Regional district in Queen Charlotte City of $2500 a year (in 1980), which enabled them to hire a Branch Head in 1981. Masset was also paying a staff person by this time, funded through local taxes.

A Northwest Library Association Meeting focused on “cooperation vs. autonomy”, and this “regional concept” was embraced by the Masset Public Library Association. Fred White, Director of VIRL, was invited to the islands, and was met with interested islanders to explain the “regional concept”.

1983: by April, Masset council, Port Clements council and School District #50 had all been petitioned and voted in favour of joining VIRL.

In October, Kathy Nelson was appointed to the VIRL Board to represent School District #50, Charles Gee represented Masset, and Sharon Hornidge represented Port Clements.

Existing book collections in Masset and QCC were absorbed back into the community through distribution to the schools, to the Canadian Forces station in Masset, to library volunteers and through book sales.

In October, Joel Scott and Art Barratt from VIRL Headquarters drove a Budget rental truck packed with catalogued books for the 4 branches, to Port Hardy, by ferry to Prince Rupert and across to Skidegate.

Existing Branch Heads – Melanie McKenzie and Claire Sim, were hired by VIRL to run the QCC and Masset branches respectively. Leona Stephenson was hired in Port Clements, followed by a few months later by Brenda Chapman.

Sandspit library began as a book station, using the $2500 grant from the Library Services Branch for shelves, a desk, etc., in a small hut offered by the Airport facility for $200 a year.

1984: Kathy Pick was hired as the first Branch Head for Sandspit.

The grand opening of the “new” Queen Charlotte City library was held in the QCC Branch on May 26, 1994.

1985: In January, Judy Baeckmann was hired as Extension Librarian to supervise the Charlottes branches (visiting twice a year), Bella Coola (which had joined the VIRL in 1981), Port Renfrew and Books by Mail.

MARCH, 1996: Over the past 12 years since the opening of the “new” library in 1984, circulation has more than doubled and many staff members have come and gone (and even come back as in the case of Branch Head Lin Armstrong who is back working as a casual after a 5 year absence).

Melanie McKenzie left in September 1986 and was replaced by Dorothy Cardinal, who in turn was replaced by Pam Pollock in April 1988. Pam worked for a year and half until Lin Morrall (Armstrong) replaced her in October 1989. Lin also worked only about a year and a half until May 1991 when she left to run her own family fish lifting business and casual Marnie Andrews became the new Branch Head.

The growing popularity of the library and increase in circulation made it possible to hire a second staff member, Natasha Winston, as Branch Assistant in ?. Natasha moved away in July 1995, and was replaced by casual Laurel Williams.

2006: V.I.R.L. 70th Anniversary

(Submitted by Rand Flem-Ath)

Marnie Andrews was the Branch Head and Lin Armstrong was the Branch Assistant in 1996.  Su-san Brown was hired as a casual.

In 1998 Su-san Brown became the Branch Assistant bringing her enthusiasm for working with children to VIRL.Su-san became the Branch Head in 2001. 

Other branch assistants included:  Keri Wilkie,Lin Armstrong, and Lindsay Banfield, Mare Levesque, and most recently, Michelle Scott. 

The branch expanded in the fall of 2002 to include the former Senior's Centre.  This made a lot more room for children's books.

Rand Flem-Ath became the Library Manager in September 2002 replacing Alison Fitzgerald who had held the position since 1996. Juday Baxter replaced Rand Flem-Ath in 2008, and Lorelee Parker replaced Judy Baxter in 2016.

Over the years we have worked closely with the QC Child Center, Queen Charlotte Secondary School, Sk'Aagdaa Naay elementary School, Haida Gwaii Learning Circle Society (our on island literacy group) and especially the Living and Learning School who are situated very close to us and helped develop a library program for elementary school children.

A public survey in May of 2006 led to new open hours in late November.  The branch will be open for more than 100 hours over previous years and will be open four rather than three days a week.

The branch now has two public access computer stations with Google Chrome Boxes providing public internet access.  Broadband improvements occurred in 2006, and refurbishment of the branch in 2007.

All the libraries in Haida Gwaii provide internet access for the public.  These, as well as all the services, are heavily used by the residents.


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(877) 415.VIRL