Vancouver Public Library Rooftop Garden Planned in New Strategic Vision

New, re-energized and expanded community spaces – including dynamic collaboration zones and high-tech creation spaces. A bold new way of delivering service. Dramatically enhanced opportunities to connect, learn, collaborate, create and contribute – all in places where no one has to pay a fee to enter, sit down, or join.

Those are among the initiatives in Vancouver Public Library’s new strategic plan, unveiled yesterday, which ambitiously re-envisions the library to meet 21st century needs.

“This is one of the most exciting periods in the history of Vancouver Public Library,” notes Catherine Evans, chair of the library’s board, which led an extensive research and consultation process to develop the plan.

“Our city is changing, technology is changing, and how people interact with information is changing,” she says. “VPL is embracing these changes – we’re expanding our commitment to being an accessible public resource for all the city’s communities.

“We’re re-imagining the concept of the public library and how VPL contributes to Vancouver.”

Vancouver Public Library is one of the city’s longest-standing institutions – a place for the community to connect with each other and learn from each other – and over the next three years the library has significant plans:

Vancouver Public Library rooftop garden to be open to the public

One of the biggest changes will be the opening of the “garden in the sky,” a multi-level outdoor area featuring 16,000 square feet of new public space, including an 8,000 square-foot garden. In 2015, the library will reclaim the eighth and ninth floors from the provincial government. The library will begin a massive renovation on the eighth and ninth floors and make the roof accessible to the general public.

Launch bold new ways to deliver service – when and where patrons want it:

At the central library, for instance, library staff enabled by mobile technology will soon come to patrons (not the other way around) to help them where and when needed in the building.”Remember the old way? You came to us – usually to a reference or research desk,” notes VPL’s chief librarian, Sandra Singh, who oversees the 22-location library system. “We have a better idea; a much better idea: We’ll come to you.”Our library staff will be equipped with mobile technology, so that fully connected information experts can come to you – wherever you are in our public spaces,” she says.”And outside the library – we think we need to be where you are, and that means the transformation of the iconic library information desk into a mobile tablet that staff can take anywhere: from inside the library and out into community spaces.”

Among other initiatives:

  • Create new and re-energized community spaces – including new and redeveloped branches (Downtown Eastside/Strathcona, for instance, and Oakridge and Marpole);
  • Continue planning for the long-awaited ‘garden in the sky’ – access to the green space on the roof of the central library downtown – something originally planned, but not yet realized;
  • Explore use of digital interfaces so VPL is a platform for community creativity and knowledge to showcase Vancouver’s history, stories and memory:
    • A digital media space (3,000 square feet) dubbed VPL’s Inspiration Lab is planned to open at the central library in late 2014, and could potentially include a digital recording studio, video editing software and workstations, an interactive music lab and more;
  • Re-engage users who may not have used the library for some time, and enhance access to library collections, staff expertise and VPL’s community space with nearly 2,300 more opening hours a year system-wide – equivalent to roughly 285 eight-hour opening days.

VPL has an extensive network of fee-free public spaces across the city – 22 in all, offering more than 500,000 square feet of space – but roughly half of its branches are still closed two days a week and many are closed in the evenings, notes Singh.

“Think of the benefits to the community if we expand our opening hours – access to community space, to our outstanding collections, to technology, to staff expertise, to our programming and to other community members. This is part of our plan,” she says.

VPL’s 2013-2015 strategic plan is a re-imagining of how the library delivers service, brings programming to life and engages people throughout Vancouver – and wide-ranging research and 10 months of consultations were key elements in its development. VPL’s Free-for-all process – as it was called – heard from thousands of voices from across the city: from individuals and families to community organizations, partners and stakeholders, all of whom had different needs and different experiences with the library.

“Our plan really builds on what we heard – on our research and on the many changes around us, locally and globally,” says Singh. “It balances the traditional expectations of the library for collections and quiet study spaces with the energy of collaboration and creativity.

“At our foundation are diverse collections and programs, highly skilled staff, a network of physical and virtual branches and flexible technology,” she says.

“This great library system has served Vancouver for more than 100 years. We’re deepening our connection to our patrons and the entire city so it will continue to thrive well into the future.”


DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff
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