As a regional system, Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) covers a vast geographic area, from Sooke and Sidney in the south to Port Hardy, Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast. Our system, the fifth largest in British Columbia, totals more than 42,000 square kilometres and includes a mix of urban, rural, and remote communities that work together to ensure exemplary library services for all our members.

Each of our member jurisdictions contributes to a pooled budgeting system, as mandated by the Library Act. With this model, VIRL is able to leverage economies of scale, discounted prices on library materials, and a robust eLibrary with the very latest in ebooks, audiobooks, streaming and downloadable music, movies and TV, and online learning opportunities.

VIRL uses a floating collection, which means that no matter where someone lives, they can request any title in our collection and have it delivered to their branch. This model ensures equity of access for all VIRL cardholders and means they can take advantage of the entirety of our collection. We focus on providing the highest quality titles, both in print and digital formats, for all of our cardholders.

Our branches reflect how people are changing the way they interact with their libraries. 21st Century libraries must balance the traditional services we have always provided with the flexible spaces, new technologies, digital resources, and exciting programming that people expect today.

Find out more about our branches.

Early Days

The first Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) doors opened in 1936. Back then, things were a little different than what we know today:

Here are some numbers from VIRL’s inaugural year:

  • Six library branches
  • 28 sub-branches
  • seven van routes
  • 6,100 members
  • 12,648 books
  • $8,213 annual budget

VIRL Today

VIRL is responding to the push for the latest technologies and advancements, ensuring that our branches are well positioned with the spaces, resources, and expertise to guide our customers now and into the future. At the same time, we recognize the pull to maintain core traditional services that libraries have always provided.

In communities large and small, our branches embrace their role as hubs of discovery that provide access to world-class collections, the latest digital resources, and spaces — both physical and digital — that cater to different passions, backgrounds, abilities, and interests. Our branches are lifelines to information, vital resources for families and newcomers, spaces that nurture new enterprises and relationships, and beacons that open doors for marginalized community members. For many in our communities, the library is their opportunity to experience virtual reality, to learn to code, to download ebooks, to stream the latest TV and movies, to create, to socialize, and to connect.

Let’s let the numbers do the talking:

  • 39 branch libraries
  • Fast growing eLibrary
  • 5,800 programs
  • 140,821 program attendees
  • 6,126 stories read
  • 2,596,832 visitors
  • 45,243 WiFi sessions
  • 5,084,711 items circulated

Since 2011, VIRL has either substantially renovated or rebuilt 13 branches in communities across our service area.

The Future

What does the future hold for VIRL? That’s difficult to predict. What we do know is that VIRL will continue to evolve and grow to ensure our branches and digital platforms remain vibrant, dynamic spaces that help people explore their passions, follow their dreams, and discover new and exciting things.

Libraries are always early adopters of new technologies and advancements, finding ways to adapt and thrive in rapidly shifting environments.

We may not know yet what tomorrow will bring, but we do know that we’ll be there, growing, evolving, and responding as the hubs of our diverse communities.