Visiting? Start with your local library.

June 28, 2019

We have some of the most beautiful country right outside the doorstep of each of our 39 branches! Whether you are a weekend warrior or travelling from afar, our librarians share coveted insider information.

You may have heard of ecotourism, gastrotourism, and agrotourism, but are you ready for bibliotourism?  Have you ever included a visit to a local library when you travel? They have so much to offer in the way of information and practical services. The geography surrounding our branches is as diverse as the communities and people of our 39 branches. We have a library that is barely bigger than a closet, yet provides a world-class view of the Salish Sea. Some of our branches feature incredible modern architecture and welcoming gathering spaces, perfect for a weary traveller. This summer, if you are coming to Vancouver Island, Bella Coola or Haida Gwaii, be sure to add a Vancouver Island Regional Library to your list of must-sees — you won’t be disappointed! Here are a few reasons why Library Tourism could be the next big thing

1.    A Community Hub

Whether you are in a remote community or a thriving metropolis, there’s nowhere that will give you the lay of the land faster than the local library! When you arrive in a new community where else will you find a place that is free, welcoming, full of locals, and staffed by people who are experts in finding information? You can have a quiet break, nurse your baby and get the important information you need, all in the same place! In Bella Coola, a common question is “do I need to worry about running into a bear on my hike and what should I take with me?” That’s a great question!

Our Zone Seven branches include the magical Haida Gwaii locations of Masset, Port Clements, Queen Charlotte, Sandspit and over on the Central coast, you will find us all the way up in gorgeous Bella Coola! As for those bears, it’s always a good idea to be prepared when travelling in bear country. 

2. Free Wifi and Computers

In all of our branches, we offer free Wifi and access to public computers. In some of the more remote locations, the library’s the only place to get online! Since so many of our library locations are close to water, we get asked about ferry schedules, wine tours, best places to eat. Commercial fishers stop by to report catches. In many locations, the library is the BEST place to get a fishing license! A funny

story from Port Renfrew “…a panicked tourist came in trying to put an online deposit on some cases of liquor purchased — he only had a few hours before large fines were added!” Libraries save you money in ALL sorts of ways!

Zone Four is the southernmost of our branches and offers the vast diversity of the Wild Coast of Port Renfrew and Hollywood North of Sooke. As well as the incredibly lush Cowichan area with Cowichan Lake, South Cowichan (Mill Bay) and Cowichan Valley (Duncan) branches. Chemainus is famous for the murals, theatre and savvy librarians. Of course, we can’t forget our new seaside jewel the Sidney/North Saanich library in Sidney.

3. A Printing Depot 

Did you buy tickets online for a music festival and forget to print them out? Need a map to that remote spot that no one else can find? The library can help! We’ve even had an artist who was only working in the area for the summer print off his creation — the library was the only place he could do it! Libraries are incredibly versatile places filled with wonderful, problem-solving people. As one librarian reports, “every summer someone comes running in, wide-eyed, heading to a concert or show wondering if we have a printer!”

Zone Two is smack dab in the middle of VI and features our tiniest branch in Union Bay, as well as the beautiful Comox Valley trio of Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland…so close and yet so different. We can’t forget to mention the “Hawaii of Canada”, Hornby Island — renowned for its white sand beaches and friendly regional library.

4. Movies and Music

Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with our plans! If you find yourself stuck for something to do, a visit to the local library can turn the day from dreary to cheery! Some of the larger libraries will have scheduled movies playing during the summer. In smaller branches, you can still watch movies on a computer, download them onto a device or even borrow from a wide collection of DVDs. You also have the option to upload some new tunes to brighten your day. “At the Harbourfront Library, we have programs running every Thursday night to coincide with the popular Downtown Night Market, people even come in to eat their street food!”

Zone One consists of the three Nanaimo libraries: Wellington, North and Harbourfront. Close by but worlds away is our Gabriola Island branch. (pro tip: please say “Gabe” not “Gab” if you want the locals to like you) and the lovely Ladysmith library.

5. Games and Activities

When you start to feel your budget begin to stretch a little too far, you can always pop into a library to supplement the entertainment. Beyond the digital, there are always board games, puzzles and programs going on. Need a breather from your toddler’s non-stop questions at the campsite? Join a local storytime and allow them to be caught up in the library magic! All ages are welcome to play checkers and chess at a comfy spot in the branch. We feature the Summer Reading Club until the end of August…you never know what you might drop in on! Perhaps a puppet show, a magic show or fascinating STEAM experiments! “We have had students join in the [Summer Reading Club] fun from all across Canada [as long as it isn’t pre-registration] everyone is welcome!”

Zone Three includes the west coast wonders of Tofino and Ucluelet — yes we do have surfing librarians! It also consists of the popular sandy beach, tourist destinations of Parksville and Qualicum Beach, as well as the world-class fishing in Port Alberni and our tiny secret of Bowser!

6. Local Artists

Some branches will have local art on display throughout the branch and can often share where to find the local galleries, large and small. We often will have “drop-in” art or craft sessions, including everything from knitting to sketching sessions. Want to meet a local author or illustrator? There’s no better place than the library! We host many opportunities for authors to come out to share their work and chat with guests. You can gain a real appreciation for any area by chatting first-hand with the storytellers of the area. At VIRL we also host an award-winning series of workshops with Indigenous Elders from each of the various areas. Want to join a drumming workshop or go on a walk to learn about native plants and herbs…the library has it. One of our customers claimed “When people come to town, I always bring them to our library! It really is the best starting point in getting to know the area!”

Zone Six includes some of the most scenic places you’ll find on the west coast. Adventurers love Port Hardy, Port Alice and Port McNeill for the wildlife and fishing. Although small in size, both Sointula with its whale sightings and Woss are big in personality and history!

7. Books! Did You Think We’d Forgotten?

Although it seems ridiculously obvious, books are a fabulous place to start your holidays. Often local libraries will have copies of little known guide books that you may not be able to access from larger centres. Local authors will share copies of self-published guides that most won’t have. We really do hold the secrets to the kingdom! If you have been camping for a few weeks and just want to come in, sit in a comfy air-conditioned corner and read a paper or a magazine, we understand. Libraries are also a great place to buy used novels at a great price — no worries about leaving it behind.

Zone Five is made up of the quickly growing gateway city of Campbell River and beautiful nearby Cortes Island and Quadra Island. The seaside community of Sayward, nature’s playground, is currently building a brand new library! We can’t forget our branches in the quiet but naturally beautiful villages of Tahsis and Gold River, connecting to the Nootka Island trek.

Whether you begin your journey online with a book borrowed from our collection or you stop by to say hello, we hope we can provide you with some valuable travel moments!