First Steps to a New Normal

July 23, 2020

Vancouver Island Regional Library opens full physical collection, restores BBM service, opens all branches with Takeout service, and pilots Walkthrough service in Nanaimo

Vancouver Island, BC – Vancouver Island library lovers can once again the access the entire collection of physical materials as Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) continues its phased approach to the resumption of library services. VIRL’s delivery trucks are once again transporting books, DVDs, magazines and other materials to branches across Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, and the Central Coast.

“We’ve been careful and methodical every step of the way since temporarily suspending in-branch services in response to the pandemic,” says Emily Mathews, VIRL’s Divisional Manager of Collections of Support Services. “Our approach has always been about protecting the health and safety of customers and staff, and we now have a plan in place to safely resume the flow of materials between our branches.”

As inter-branch deliveries begin moving again, VIRL’s top priorities remain shipping Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to branches, delivering new materials as they arrive, and fulfilling holds at the local level. This means, for the time being, that customers can expect inter-branch holds to take longer to arrive than they would under normal circumstances.

This expanded access does not change the process for using VIRL’s Takeout Services.

  • Customers place holds at or by calling 1.877.415.VIRL
  • Staff will contact customers by phone to set up an appointment
  • Customers come to their branch at the appointed time to pick up their items

The entire experience is designed to minimize physical contact and ensure that robust safety measures are enacted and enforced.

All Branches Open for Takeout Service

Now that the Hornby Island branch is offering Takeout Service, all 39 VIRL branches are open to serve customers.

“The logistics of safely coordinating the resumption of services over 39 branches and 42,000 square kilometres presents several challenges for a regional system such as ours,” says Rosemary Bonanno, VIRL’s Executive Director. “I am exceptionally proud of the job staff have done to safely open our Takeout service in communities large, small, and remote. We opened for Takeout on June 4 and are now offering the service at every one of our locations — a monumental achievement!”
More information about VIRL’s Takeout Service, including a comprehensive list of FAQs, is available at

Books by Mail is Back

VIRL’s Books by Mail (BBM) service helps hundreds of customers who live in remote areas without access to a library branch. In mid-March, this service was temporarily suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent days, VIRL has been able to restore BBM to safely send library materials to BBM customers.

All reserved materials will first be shipped to the Nanaimo North branch where they will be sent to BBM customers once ready.

More information is available at

Piloting a Walkthrough Model

Library lovers in Nanaimo can now return to the library, albeit in a limited capacity, to take advantage of the Harbourfront branch’s Walkthrough service. The service includes robust safety measures to limit the number of people accessing the branch at any one time, adherence to all prescribed physical distancing measures, and access to a limited browsing collection for customers to check out.

“It was just over four months ago when we suspended in-branch services in response to COVID-19,” says VIRL’s Director of Library Services and Planning, Melissa Legacy. “Since that time, we have never lost sight of people’s desire to return to the library and access books, DVDs, and other library materials. I am pleased to announce that we are piloting our walkthrough services at the Harbourfront branch — a model we plan to replicate and expand across our service area in the days and weeks ahead.”

Part of VIRL’s phased approach to the resumption of library services, the downtown Nanaimo now offers:

  • A walkthrough area to browse a limited collection
  • Self-checkout
  • Fee payments
  • Increased returns
  • Photocopying service

Customers who would like to access the browsing collection must have their library cards with them and use the self-check-out machines in the branch. The branch will continue to offer takeout services by appointment for those who would prefer to use this service. For the time being, the walkthrough hours will be the same as those offered for takeout:

  • Sun: Closed
  • Mon:10am-12pm & 1-4pm
  • Tue: 1-4 & 5-7pm
  • Wed:10am-12pm & 1-4pm
  • Thu: 10am-12pm & 1-4pm
  • Fri: 10am-12pm & 1-4pm
  • Sat: 10am-12pm & 1-4pm

For everyone’s safety, customers are asked to adhere to all posted safety information and the directives of staff. During this first phase of walkthrough service, there will be no access to the public washrooms, computers, or seating area.

For more information about the services and resources offered at VIRL, visit


Media Contact
David Carson, Director, Corporate Communications and Strategic Initiatives
Cell: 250.327.3651