Vancouver Public Library
Funded by the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Library is the third largest public library system in Canada, with 22 branches, over 395,000 cardholders and more than 8 million item borrowings annually. The central branch opened in Downtown Vancouver on May 26, 1995 and cost 106.8 million CAD to build. It currently holds over 2.25 million items.

The Vancouver Public Library system consists of 22 branches, which are situated throughout the city. Most branches are open Tuesday through Saturday. Eight of the branches are open seven days a week. The administration centre, and also largest branch, known as the Central branch, is located at Library Square in downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver Library Square
Consolidating Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch, Federal Office Tower, and retail and service facilities, the Library Square occupies a city block in the eastward expansion of downtown Vancouver. Centred on the block, the library volume is a nine-story rectangular box containing book stacks and services, surrounded by a free-standing, elliptical, colonnaded wall featuring reading and study areas that are accessed by bridges spanning skylit light wells. The library's internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed concourse formed by a second elliptical wall that defines the east side of the site. This generous, glass-roofed concourse serves as an entry foyer to the library and the more lively pedestrian activities at ground level. Public spaces surrounding the library form a continuous piazza with parking located below grade. The building's exterior is resembles the Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome (better known by its later name of the Colosseum) although in fact the resemblance is to the present rather than original state of the building. The Library Square Project was the largest capital project ever undertaken by the City of Vancouver. The decision to build the project came after a favourable public referendum in November 1990. The City then held a design competition to choose a design for the new building. The design by Moshe Safdie was by far the most radical design and yet was the public favourite. The inclusion of the office tower in the design was required in order to pay for it and as part of a deal with the federal government to obtain the land; the federal government has a long term lease on the high rise office tower portion of the project. Construction began in early 1993 and was completed in 1995. The general contractor was PCL Construction. Moshe Safdie had partnered with the local architect Downs/Archambault (now DA Architects + Planners) on this project. The company that made the actual stonework was Architectural Precast Structures or APS. In addition to its function as the central branch of the city's public library system, the one square block project also includes an attached office high-rise, retail shops, restaurants, and underground public parking. The Library building has a rooftop garden designed by Vancouver landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander. The roof garden is not accessible to the public.

The building is located in the eastern portion of the Vancouver Central Business District. The address of the library is 350 West Georgia Street, and the Federal office tower is addressed at 300 West Georgia Street. Levels 8 and 9 are leased to the Provincial government. Their address is 360 West Georgia Street. The Square is bordered by Robson Street, Homer Street, West Georgia Street, and Hamilton Street. Across West Georgia Street is Canada Post. Across Hamilton Street is the CBC Regional Broadcast Centre Vancouver. Across Homer street is The Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts, (formerly The Ford Centre for the Performing Arts) also designed by Moshe Safdie as a complementary building to library square.

Bus and SkyTrain There are many local bus routes that route past Library Square including the 5, 6, 8, 15, 17, and 20. (See the List of bus routes in Metro Vancouver) The two nearest SkyTrain stations are Granville Station and Stadium–Chinatown Station and are each within a few blocks of Library Square. Bicycle Access Library Square has three public use bike rack stations:
  • One on Hamilton by the Federal Office Tower (between Georgia and the Library's book drop)
  • One on Georgia by the Library Square Public House (a street level restaurant/pub in the Federal Office Tower)
  • One on the South Plaza (off Homer Street near Robson Street)
The South Plaza station is the better-used and visible spot. It is also the largest and will accommodate more bicycles than the other two stations.

Library building (including retail, daycare, and parking)
  • 9 stories
  • 37,000 square metres (398,000 square feet)
  • the 1.5 million books, periodicals, and other reference materials are moved through the building by vertical and horizontal conveyors
  • 51 km of cable are laid throughout the building, including a fibre optic backbone
  • seating capacity: 1200+
  • 700+ parking stalls and many bicycle racks
  • top 2 floors currently leased by the British Columbia government and scheduled for future library expansion
  • approximate cost: CAD $107 million
  • currently occupied by the Canadian government
  • approximate cost: CAD $50 million

In TV and Film
  • Scenes from The 6th Day were filmed at the Central Branch, where it stood as the headquarters for the cloning company.
  • Scenes from the closing sequence of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus were filmed in the Central Branch entrance hall.
  • Scenes from the television series Battlestar Galactica and its spin-off Caprica were filmed at the building.
  • During a shootout scene in Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever was filmed inside and outside the building.
  • The museum scenes in Mr. Magoo were filmed in the Central Branch entrance hall.

Vancouver's Homeless Community
The Downtown Vancouver Library provides a gathering place for the nearby homeless shelter residents. The shelters have an early check out time making the residents retreat to the library's large indoor lobby. The Central Library plays a vital role for members of the downtown community who are trying to escape the elements during the rainy season.

Image Gallery

One Book, One Vancouver
One Book, One Vancouver is a city-wide book club sponsored by the Vancouver Public Library. Titles are selected by the library staff, who vote for one of four titles presented by the One Book, One Vancouver Organizing Committee.
  • 2002: The Jade Peony - Wayson Choy
  • 2003: Stanley Park - Timothy Taylor
  • 2004: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power - Joel Bakan
  • 2005: Obasan - Joy Kogawa
  • 2006: There is a Season: A Memoir in a Garden - Patrick Lane
  • 2007: My Year of Meats - Ruth Ozeki
  • 2008: The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky - Karen X. Tulchinsky
  • 2009: The Crazy Canucks: Canada's Legendary Ski Team - Janet Love Morrison
  • 2009: The Farm Team - Linda Bailey

Library in the news
In September, 2009, the library cancelled a room booking made by the group Exit International to hold a workshop by Dr Philip Nitschke about assisted suicide. The cancellation came despite months of negotiation between Exit and library administration. The library stated that it had received a legal opinion stating the workshop as described could contravene Canada's Criminal Code, but would not make the opinion public. The workshop was held at Vancouver's Unitarian Church. "Whatever the reasons of the library were, it's obviously not effecting the decision by the unitarian church," Dr Nitschke said. David Eby, executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, which tried unsuccessfully to get the ban lifted, said "Usually, librarians are our closest allies in this free-speech debate."

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