If Sidney were to leave the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL), it would take a referendum (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Head of Vancouver Island Regional Library system calls Sidney’s claims ‘problematic’

Rosemary Bonanno says the Library Act gives Sidney an ‘exit strategy’

The executive director of the regional library system that includes Sidney and North Saanich calls comparisons with another regional system “problematic” in defending her system and calling on elected officials to do their job.

“The library system received by Sidney/North Saanich customers is high performing, sustainable, and cost effective,” said Rosemary Bonanno, executive director of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) system. “It is your obligation as the elected officials to ensure value for money.”

Bonanno made those comments in letter sent to Sidney councillors, who last month asked VIRL for specific statistics for the Sidney-North Saanich branch after Coun. Peter Wainright presented a set of general statistics from provincial library statistics that compared VIRL with the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL).

“Why is GVPL out-performing VIRL by so much, considering that the tax levy, the funding for them, is somewhat comparable?” asked Wainwright during his presentation last month. It compared and contrasted the percentage share of library card holders across both systems, the per-person levy, the per-capita size of libraries, material expenditures per capita, and circulation per capita.

RELATED: Sidney hears calls to book out of Vancouver Island Regional Library system

Bonanno said in her letter that staff determined that “many of the conclusions” drawn from the comparison of general statistics appeared “problematic” in noting that VIRL is a rural dominated system.

“This impacts hours of operation, per capital expenditures and other factors that affect VIRL’s perceived performance against other urban dominant systems,” she said. She also pointed out that VIRL uses a different system than GVPL to purge inactive cardholders, adding that “extensive refurbishments and rebuilds” across the systems over the past decade impacted statistics.

“As a result, at any given time, branch closures and temporary locations affected many of the statistics mentioned in the [council] meeting, even though the result was new or refurbished libraries that will serve their communities for decades to come that will, over the long term, lead to more customers and better overall library service.”

Bonanno also suggested that Sidney councillors concerned about the quality of the service might be hypocritical.

RELATED: Official predicts Sidney will not leave Vancouver Island Regional Library

“When VIRL was planning the most recent capital project for Sidney, we received clear direction from the Town to refurbish the existing space and to not expand its footprint,” she said. “If, however, the proposed branch for the District of North Saanich moves forward, the Sidney branch will then be the appropriate size for its population served.”

Wainwright had presented his statistics after council received a letter from Sidney resident Robyn Quaintance in which she called on Sidney to leave VIRL for GVPL because of her VIRL’s perceived lack of selection.

Bonanno said VIRL addressed Quaintance’s concerns in telling her among other points that libraries are no “longer simply repositories” for books. “There is a pressing need for libraries to help bridge the digital divide,” she said.

This said, Bonanno later pointed out that Sidney can choose to leave the system if it wants to do so.

“We believe the review of VIRL policies, strategies, and deliverables all point to an excellent return on investment,” she said. “However, the Library Act does provide jurisdictions with an exit strategy.” By way of context, such a move would require a referendum.

Council considered the letter Tuesday night and received it for information. The public also heard that Sidney will review library services in 2022. Residents concerned about library services should also share with their local branch. Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith told the Peninsula News Review through staff be releasing a media release Thursday on the subject and that he would be available for additional comment.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ninja groups could be setting children up for identity theft, online safety expert says

‘When I started seeing entry codes into secure buildings, I’m thinking oh my God, what are we doing?’

Federal government tenders remediation of Sidney’s Reay Creek pond

With tendering deadline of June 12, Transport Canada admits project is behind schedule

Close call has North Saanich councillor appealing for traffic safety

Coun. Jack McClintock is using an incident involving his daughter to highlight traffic safety

Saanich Peninsula steps into post-pandemic phase

Pending partial re-opening of local schools signals new start

Craft vendors allowed to re-join Goldstream Farmers Market

Dr. Bonnie Henry lightens restrictions, approves non-food items to be sold

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Man dies in ATV accident south of Nanaimo

Incident happened on backroad Friday night in Nanaimo Lakes area

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

Most Read