The Vancouver Island Regional Library says it’s bringing more services to help customers stay connected.

Anyone with questions about digital tools, resources, and databases will soon be able to set up virtual appointments with staff over the phone, email, or web-based platform.

It’s also planning to expand its email and telephone service.

Online programming, including storytimes, book clubs, and learning opportunities are also in the pipeline.

On March 16, the Vancouver Island Regional Library suspended all in-branch services to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

Looking ahead, a recently formed Renewal and Recovery Taskforce will develop a roadmap for how VIRL can resume offering in-branch services to customers. 

The library said that all decisions will be driven by the direction and guidance of health authorities.

As well, a number of library systems in British Columbia have started rolling out curbside pick-up of physical materials, and the VIRL says it has heard from a growing number of customers “who are hungry for books.” 

The models being used by other systems will be carefully reviewed by the taskforce, among other ideas and plans put forth by team members and other library systems.

“We understand just how important libraries are to so many in our communities,” says Melissa Legacy, VIRL’s director of library services and planning. 

“Whether it’s providing books to families, combating social isolation for seniors, or offering a safe and welcoming space to people in need, libraries mean so much to so many and we are committed to providing services and supports to our communities as soon as it is safe to do so.”

There is no timeline on when in-branch services will start back up again.

For more information about VIRL, including the digital resources currently available, click here.

“Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that just a few short months ago, COVID-19 was not even a word, let alone a global pandemic impacting our lives, loved ones, and many of our livelihoods,” said FVRL executive director, Rosemary Bonanno. 

“As the realities of COVID-19 became apparent, we acted quickly and decisively to ensure that our staff and customers were not in harm’s way. Closing our branches was the best decision we could make to keep people safe. I am proud of the response my staff provided to our customers up and down our service area.”

Initial Response

Not long after suspending in-branch services, staff pivoted towards promoting and expanding VIRL’s digital offerings. 

This included:

  • Expanding the number of eBook and eAudiobook titles;
  • offering WiFi services, in most cases 24/7, outside all VIRL branches;
  • increasing access to the popular streaming TV and film platforms, Kanopy and AcornTV; and
  • promoting VIRL’s platforms and resources across all of our channels and to our community partners.

As a result of these efforts, the VIRL saw a 

  • 50 percent increase in eBooks borrowing,
  • 30 percent jump in eAudiobook borrowing,
  • 19 percent increase in digital magazines checked out each day,
  • 15 percent jump in movies, TV shows, and music streamed daily, and 
  • 15 percent increase in the use of online learning through Lynda.com

On March 27th, VIRL rolled out an online membership platform. 

Since this service launched, nearly 1,200 people have signed up for a library card.