BCLA Building Better Communities Award

May 15, 2019

BCLA Building Better Communities Award 


“Be authentic. If you don’t know, ASK. Avoid making broken promises.” -Melanie Barnum


The BCLA Building Better Communities Award was developed to recognize an individual or organization responsible for increasing the relevancy and impact of library service through partnership, collaboration, and building trust where little has previously existed.  We are thrilled to announce that on May 10th at the BCLA Awards Banquet the 2019 Building Better Communities Award was accepted by Vancouver Island Regional Libraries own Melanie Barnum.


Vancouver Island Regional (VIRL) Library’s service area is vast and diverse. What works in Sidney doesn’t always resonate in Port Hardy. A program that shines in Masset may not have the same impact in Lake Cowichan. But when VIRL launched our Indigenous Voices initiative in January of 2018, we started a movement that touched almost every corner of our library system.


VIRL provided the space. The Elders provided the substance.

By year’s end, 20 Indigenous Elders had hosted 56 events across 20 VIRL communities to 1,384 total participants. Attendees learned about reconciliation and residential schools, listened to creation stories, embarked on medicine walks to discover medicinal uses of local plants, participated in drum making sessions and smudging ceremonies…and so much more.


The Indigenous Voices initiative was a movement that advanced reconciliation and forged new relationships and understandings in library branches from Sidney to Masset. The program has continued into 2019 with many new and exciting programs planned for the year. Its success was borne form the dedication and creativity of staff who, when faced with adversity, found a solution that would celebrate and reflect the many Indigenous cultures throughout our library system. The Elder-led program that emerged was educational, entertaining, thought-provoking, emotional, and inspiring. It forged new connections, helped bring people closer and opened up new channels of communication and understanding in many VIRL communities.


“Indigenous Voices is an important part of our commitment to reconciliation for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of our community,” said VIRL’s Executive Director Rosemary Bonanno. “The events being organized across our system are wonderful opportunities for people to learn from the lived experiences of the Elders, and to come away with a deeper understanding of Indigenous cultures, histories, and stories.”