What is the Creativity Commons?

The Creativity Commons is a space where individuals or small groups can use up-to-date computers to produce and edit digital content, print books, experiment with making and taking apart gadgets, and pick up a new tech skill. Generally, it’s a place for learning and executing creative endeavours.

There are three areas: the Story Lab, the Make & Break Lab, and the Family History Lab.

Where is the Creativity Commons?

It is on the second storey of the Harbourfront branch of Vancouver Island Regional Library at 90 Commercial Street in Nanaimo.

What can I do there?

With our equipment and software, you can:

  • Film and edit videos
  • Record and upload a podcast
  • Edit photos
  • Play with circuit boards and electronics
  • Turn your VHS movies into DVDs
  • Design a poster, flyer, book cover
  • Format and print a book (fees apply)

The space is also available to book for quiet study or work space. Plus, we will be hosting presentations and programs (check our calendar for the latest).

What exactly is in the Creativity Commons?

Here is a list of tools and software – keep an eye out because it will be growing! Please note that some of this is shared with other library branches, so email creativitycommons@virl.bc.ca or call 250-753-1154 to check for availability.

Story Lab
  • Espresso Book Machine
  • iMac with digital media software, including full Adobe Creative Suite
  • VHS digital converter
  • USB microphone
  • Audio recording interface
Portable Recording
  • Zoom portable audio recorder
  • Portable sound baffling
  • 1 HD camcorders, tripods
  • Green screen and lighting kit
Make & Break Lab
  • Raspberry Pis
  • littleBits kits (starter and synth)
  • Makey Makey
  • Large screen TV
Family History Lab
  • Microfilm reader
  • Microfilm collection
  • Genealogy collection
  • Computer with access to Ancestry.com

Who can use the Creativity Commons?

The labs are open to the public. If you would like to use the equipment, you must have an active VIRL membership. Per library policy, we ask that children under 13 be supervised by a parent or guardian.

What does it cost?

Use of the labs and equipment is free. However, if you wish to print a book, fees apply.

Can I borrow the equipment and use it at home?

For now the equipment can only be used in the Creativity Commons. Some of the more mobile equipment will be heading out to visit other VIRL branches and community organizations for special programs, though, so there will be opportunities to use it in library programming outside the Harbourfront branch.

Will someone be available to help me?

There are staff available in the Creativity Commons whenever it’s open. All of us can get you started with using the equipment, and some of us can provide training on higher-level skills. And being librarians, we will always find you the best resource for answering anything we don’t know. You can schedule a one-on-one with a librarian by calling 250.753.1154 x238 or emailing creativitycommons@virl.bc.ca.

NOTE: We cannot record/edit your project or edit your book for you. One-on-one help will focus on teaching you how to do these things independently.

How long can I use the equipment/space?

Use is offered in two-hour blocks per day. If no one else is waiting, we can extend your time. If you need to use the lab over multiple days or an extended period, please talk to library staff about booking time.

Can I book time in advance?

Sure! To do so, you can visit or call the second storey at 250.753.1154 or email us at creativitycommons@virl.bc.ca. If you cannot make your scheduled reservation, we would appreciate some notification so we can give other users the time slot. On the day of the reservation, we’ll hold your spot for 15 minutes.

What if I don’t have a reservation? Do you have drop-in hours?

Yes; we understand that inspiration can strike at any time. The space and equipment are available on a first-come, first-serve basis if not already reserved. We also have regularly scheduled drop-in times on Fridays and Saturdays between 2:30 and 4:30.

We’re working on a group project. Can we all fit in the lab?

Your group can definitely come use the Make & Break Lab; it accommodates approximately a dozen people maximum. The Story Lab can get crowded when more than five are present, with seating and computers for two. The Family History Lab is small and meant for just one or two researchers.

What if I break something?

We’re hoping this will never happen! However, the individual who reserves the lab will be considered responsible for damage or misuse of the equipment. Even if you’re working as a group, the main user will be held liable. In the event of an accident, you will be charged the repair or replacement cost of the equipment on your library account.

What we consider damage includes but is not limited to:

  • Equipment misuse resulting in inoperability
  • Theft
  • Knowing introduction of a virus or malware
  • Attempts to modify hardware (that is not meant to be disassembled by nature)
  • Attempts to delete licenced software

Can I save my work on the lab computer?

Users must  save their work on an external memory device (USB stick) or the cloud (Dropbox, Copy, Google Drive, iCloud). Multiple users will access the lab computer every day, and we don’t want your project to be changed or lost.

However, we know that sometimes you might have to temporarily save files on the lab computer. In these instances, it will be your responsibility to delete your files afterwards, and the library is not liable for any subsequent modification or loss.

All this creativity is making me hungry; can I snack while I’m in the lab?

To protect the equipment, only closed drink containers and no food are permitted in any of the labs.