British Columbia

New sxʷeŋ'xʷəŋ taŋ'exw James Bay library given modern, airy feel with garage doors, movable bookshelves

Victoria's newest library has many meeting rooms and flexible spaces. The staff say the priority is to create a gathering place that is part of a walkable community.

Staff at the new library in Victoria say the priority is to create a community gathering spot

The name for the new sxʷeŋ'xʷəŋ taŋ'exw James Bay library was chosen after a community campaign that showed strong support for an Indigenous name. (JCBC/Jean Paetkau)

The new sxʷeŋ'xʷəŋ taŋ'exw James Bay library branch in Victoria both honours the past and embraces the future.

The library's unique moniker, sxʷeŋ'xʷəŋ taŋ'exw, is the the traditional Lekwungen name for the area. At the same time, the facility has bookshelves on wheels and walls that disappear upwards, like garage doors. 

Listen to Songhees elder Dr. Elmer Seniemten George pronounce the name of the new library:

Maureen Sawa is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Public Library and she says bringing light into the library was a priority. 

The new library will have 12,000 items in their collections, including audio books, DVD's and video games. (CBC/Jean Paetkau)

"It's a particularly beautiful space," Sawa said. 

"The palette is kind of greens and teal blues and lovely light fixtures, very, very, high ceilings. So, it's got a real sense of airiness."

Sawa explains the movable fixtures will allow many different types of community gatherings in the new library. 

"We need to have flexibility of space because as formats change, needs change, and if we can repurpose space as things develop, then that's a very, very good thing."

The library is 7,150 square feet and includes a laptop bar and computers reserved for teens and children. 

The children's section of the library features bookshelves that double as seats. (CBC/Jean Paetkau)

"It's perfect for families coming in, who want to just spend some time at the library. It's very comfortable," Sawa said. 

The library branch also reflects the Indigenous heritage of the area, with a community room named after Dr. Elmer Seniemten George.

The new library includes a meeting room with garage door walls to make the space more multi-purpose. (CBC/Jean Paetkau)

The Songhees Elder is one of the few remaining speakers of Lekwungen. 

Rob Martin is the chair of the Greater Victoria Public Library board, and he says he wants the facility to be viewed as a community living room. 

"We are trying to create that feel for it to be a walkable community," Martin said

"So that it's a community that people can just come and experience without having to get into their car."

Located at the corner of Menzies and Superior streets in James Bay, the library is part of the new Capital Park Development behind the provincial legislature. 

The sxʷeŋ'xʷəŋ taŋ'exw James Bay library branch opens Monday at 10 a.m.