South Cowichan

exterior of the South Cowichan Library
Box 118, 310-2720 Mill Bay Rd.
Mill Bay BC
V0R 2P0
Phone: 250-743-5436
Fax: 250-743-5506
southcowichan [at] virl [dot] bc [dot] ca

The South Cowichan library branch opened in 1989. The original name of the library was the Shawnigan Lake branch, established in 1946.


Professional Staff Information

Library Manager - Monica Finn

Map and Hours



  • Wheelchair accessible
  • 4 public access computers
  • Merlin electronic desktop magnifier

Our Community

Shawnigan Lake Branch

(Established 1946)

1986: V.I.R.L. 50th Anniversary

Library service has been nearly continuous at Shawnigan for nearly 60 years. Although the Women’s Institute ran a library for a short time in 1919, the first mention of the Shawnigan Lake Library Association is in the S.L.L.A. cash book in 1925, when rent was first paid for library quarters in the basement of the old hall. The Library Association’s shelves boasted a good stock of permanent books along with a frequently changed selection from the Provincial and Victoria libraries. In the annual report of 1929 a circulation of 5,189 books was registered. It is noted in the records that the hours the library was open coincided with the hours of the butcher, Mr. J. Smith, who came to Shawnigan from Cobble Hill certain days a week.

In the 1930 S.L.L.A. Hall fire, the library room with all its contents was completely destroyed. One week later the library re-opened in temporary quarters (along with the post office) with its shelves full of donated books, in the building at 1760 Shawnigan-Mill Bay Rd., now the Shawnigan Seafood and Burger House.

In the fall of 1930 the library moved to a little building erected for the purpose and rented to the Association by Mr. J. Ford. (This building, situated directly across from the present library on the property at 2739 Dundas now owned by Mr. & Mrs. P. Cadorette, subsequently became Mr. M. Robertson’s butcher shop and burned down in 1939.)

In the spring of 1932 the Shawnigan Lake Library Association, using its insurance money in the amount of $500.00 bought a site from Mrs. S. Gibbs and had the present library built by Mr. R.P. Weber at 1755 Shawnigan-Mill Bay Rd.

In 1935 a local plebiscite turned down the Union Library scheme for Shawnigan, but in a second plebiscite, ten years later, the ratepayers reversed their decision and voted to join the Vancouver Island Union Library, now regional Library. The trustees of the Shawnigan Lake Library Association (four local women) co-operated willingly by making available their library building. The nominal rent paid by the Regional Library covered utility services and maintenance only. As Shawnigan is an unorganized village there were no civic funds available. But in 1967 and again in 1971, the Centennial Committees turned over to the local Library Association the on-going sales and profit from Shawnigan’s history, “Green Branches and Fallen Leaves”. From these proceeds the library trustees were able to put in an oil furnace, carpeting, and other improvements otherwise not possible.

In 1976 the library building was turned over to the Vancouver Island Regional Library, and the local association was dissolved. The retiring trustee board turned over the newly formed Shawnigan Lake Historical Association its equity in “Green Branches and Fallen Leaves”, and its collection of local memorabilia.

The first Area Librarian assigned to the branch was Mary Edwards (now Kierans) in 1968. she was succeeded by Kay McHallum in 1970, Mary Lou cuddy in 1974, Kerry Segrave in 1979, Patrick Raynard in 1979 and Mary Lou Cuddy again in 1982. Chirstel Josephy was the first area Children’s Librarian in 1978, followed by Penny Grant in 1982. Christel rejoined us in 1984.

Custodians of the branch have included Amy Cadorette, Jim Scott, Denise Slater, Mona Monnington, Christine Neil and Leola Witt-McNie who is currently Custodian.

The 500 sq. ft. library presently serves a population of 2,927 and is open 22 hours per week. In 1985 the yearly circulation was 34,062.

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South Cowichan Branch

1996: V.I.R.L. 60th Anniversary

In 1987 it became obvious that a new library was needed to better serve the increasing population of the South Cowichan area. Anna O’Brien and Judy Baeckmann, the Area Librarians who followed Mary Lou Cuddy, were overwhelmed by the number of book rotations needed to keep up with the reading public’s desire for ever different titles on the few shelves available in the old Shawnigan Branch.

Mel Sager and David Gibson, owners of the Mill Bay Centre, proposed building a library, not as a storefront operation, but as a library on its own. Mill Bay residents were delighted. Shawnigan Lake residents were not. A public meeting was held to discuss the change in location. In the end, it came down to the fact that the Mill Bay Centre was a drawing place for many of the 12,000 residents of the South Cowichan area.

In September 1989, the new 3300 sq. ft. branch opened, renamed the South Cowichan Branch, to reflect the area served. Circulation jumped to 100,000 the first year and continues to climb.


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(877) 415.VIRL