British Columbia

Vancouver's Central Library celebrates 25th anniversary with takeout book service, new computer lab

The West Georgia Street location opened on this day in 1995 and this year, staff are opening a new computer lab and launching 'take out' book service to mark the occasion.

VPL's flagship branch opened May 26, 1995, but remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The Vancouver Central Library is pictured in downtown Vancouver.
The Central Library, which opened May 26, 1995, at 350 West Georgia St., was the largest capital project ever undertaken by the City of Vancouver at the time at an estimated cost of $107 million. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Twenty-five years ago, a group of excited volunteers carried stacks of books through Vancouver's downtown core from the old city library on Burrard Street to stock the shelves of a new flagship branch before it opened to eager readers.

The Coliseum-inspired Central Library on West Georgia Street, designed by architects Moshe Safdie, Richard Archambault and Barry Downs, officially opened its doors a quarter of a century ago on Tuesday.

And while all civic libraries are currently closed due to COVID-19, staff at the branch have found a few ways to celebrate its silver anniversary, including take-out service for books.

VPL chief librarian Christina de Castell said starting in early June, people can reserve a book from a curated list by phone or online and come to the Central Library to pick it up.

Along with all the other VPL branches, the Central Library has been closed since March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

On Tuesday, staff are opening a new computer lab for the first full day of use, principally for those who do not have a machine or internet access at home to connect to critical services.

"It's for people who need it the most," said de Castell, who said the lab will respect public health orders.

The facility, located in the Alice MacKay room on the library's lower level, has eight computers set two metres apart from each other. The computers can be booked for 45-minute intervals and de Castell said staff will sanitize each station thoroughly between users. 

Users need only show up to secure a spot.

Ready your summer reading list

The plan is to gradually re-open VPL locations over the summer, starting with limited services at a few branches in July

Staff hope to have all 22 branches, which have been closed since March 16, providing some service by September.

De Castell said library use has remained high, with more than 2,000 people signing up for library cards since the pandemic began to be able to access digital books, films and other online resources.

Library staff also host an online story time for children on weekdays and de Castell said more than 1,000 people are regularly visiting the library's Facebook page to watch. The next storytime event is at 10 a.m. PT on May 26.

The Central Library was the largest capital project ever undertaken by the City of Vancouver at the time, at an approximate cost of $107 million.

On opening day, a time capsule was embedded between levels two and three, with a plan to open it on the library's 45th anniversary in 2040.


  • An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that the VPL plans to reopen all its branches to the public in July. In fact, the aim is to reopen branches gradually over the summer, starting with limited services at a few locations in July.
    May 27, 2020 12:14 PM PT

With files from The Early Edition