Vancouver Public Library
LocationVancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Architect(s)Moshe Safdie / DA Architects + Planners[6]: 262 
Items collectedbusiness directories, phone books, maps, government publications, books, periodicals, genealogy, local history
Size2.6 million[1]
Access and use
Circulation9.5 million[2]
Population served631,486 (2016)[3]
Other information
Budget$43,559,151 (2012)[5]

Vancouver Public Library (VPL) is the public library system for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2013, VPL had more than 6.9 million visits with patrons borrowing nearly 9.5 million items including: books, ebooks, CDs, DVDs, video games, newspapers and magazines. Across 22 locations and online, VPL serves nearly 428,000 active members[7] and is the third-largest public library system in Canada.


The Vancouver Public Library includes a large collection of books and digital content. The library provides community information, programs for children, youth, and adults, and delivery to homebound individuals. In addition, the library also provides access to information and reference services, text databases, interlibrary loan services.

One Book, One Vancouver

One Book, One Vancouver was a citywide book club sponsored by the Vancouver Public Library. Titles were selected by the library staff, who voted on one of four titles presented by the One Book, One Vancouver Organizing Committee. It was discontinued after 2010.


In January 1869, the manager of the Hastings Mill, J.A. Raymur, started the New London Mechanics Institute, a meeting room and library for mill employees. In March 1869, it was renamed the Hastings Literary Institute, in honour of Rear Admiral the Honourable George Fowler Hastings. No official records of the Hastings Literary Institute have survived, but it is known that membership was by subscription. The Hastings Literary Institute continued to exist until the Granville area was incorporated as part of the new City of Vancouver on 6 April 1886.

Following the Great Vancouver Fire on 13 June 1886, 400 books from the now-defunct Hastings Literary Institute were donated to the newly established Vancouver Reading Room. In December 1887, the Reading Room opened at 144 West Cordova Street, above the Thomas Dunn and Company hardware store. It was also known as the Vancouver Free Library and the Vancouver Free Reading Room and Library.

By the late 1890s, the Free Reading Room and Library in the YMCA Building on West Hastings had become overcrowded. During this period, the American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was giving money to cities and towns to build libraries. In 1901, the City of Vancouver approached Carnegie about donating money for a new library to replace the space in the YMCA Building.

The Vancouver Carnegie Library was completed in 1903. The building was used as the main branch of the public library until 1957. The Carnegie Branch is currently located in the building.[8]

In 1901, American steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie agreed to donate $50,000 to build a city library if Vancouver would provide free land and $5,000 annually to support its operation. A fight immediately developed between East and West side Vancouver as to who would get the new cultural institution. A public plebiscite fixed the site at Hastings and Westminster (now Main) Streets, next door to the first City Hall. The cornerstone was laid by the Grand Lodge of the Masonic Order on 29 March 1902 and under it were placed Masonic documents, a copy of the city's Act of Incorporation, lists of various officials and examples of the postage stamps and coins then in use. The building was designed by Vancouver architect George Grant and is in the style of Romanesque Renaissance, with a domed Ionic portico and French mansard roof. Granite for the foundation came from Indian Arm and sandstone for the 10" thick walls came from Gabriola Island. A fantastic marble, spiral staircase was built by Albion Iron Works of Victoria. It cost $2.279 million and 9,888 pounds of steel and iron were used. A large multi-panel stained glass window with 3 smaller windows below was designed and crafted by N.T. Lyon of Toronto. Depicted in the windows are John Milton, William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Thomas More,[9] and Edmund Spenser.[10] The 3 small windows were removed in 1958 when the library was converted into the museum. They were missing for many years but were located intact and returned to the building in 1985. Inside was hardwood panelled walls and ceilings and oak floors. The rooms were heated by eight fireplaces. There were special reading rooms for ladies and for children, a chess room, newspaper reading room, picture gallery, lecture hall, and on the third floor the Art, Historical and Scientific Association (now called the Vancouver Museum). The library opened in November 1903.[11] This branch is now primarily used as a community centre for residents of the Downtown East Side neighbourhood.

VPL moved its Central branch location from the Carnegie Library to 750 Burrard Street in 1957. The building was used as the Central branch until 1995.

The Vancouver Public Library continued to occupy the Hastings and Main site until the opening of a new central library at 750 Burrard Street in 1957. The move from the Carnegie site to the new location at 750 Burrard began in mid-October 1957, and the official opening of the new library was held on 1 November 1957. The library remained at the Burrard building until 22 April 1995, when it closed in preparation for the move to a new location at Library Square (350 West Georgia Street). The central branch opened in Downtown Vancouver on 26 May 1995 and cost CAD $106.8 million to build.

In September 2009, the library cancelled a room booking made by the group Exit International to hold a workshop by 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.[12] The workshop was held at Vancouver's Unitarian Church.[13] "Whatever the reasons of the library were, it's obviously not affecting the decision by the Unitarian Church," Dr. Nitschke said. David Eby, executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, which failed to get the ban lifted, said "Usually, librarians are our closest allies in this free-speech debate."[14]

City librarians


Children at Kitsilano Branch Library, opened 1927

In 1927 the first permanent branch was opened in Kitsilano (2375 West Fourth Avenue). Sixteen years later, in 1943, the second branch, Kerrisdale (Forty-second Avenue and West Boulevard), came into service. Other branches followed throughout the years, with the last branch, the Terry Salman Branch, opening in 2011.[25] The Strathcona Branch, which shared its collection and facilities with Lord Strathcona Elementary School, was removed from the system in 2016, pending the opening of the nə́c̓aʔmat ct[26] Strathcona Branch. The new branch opened in the same community in 2017.[27]

Entrance to the Kensington branch. Kensington is one of 22 VPL branches.

The Vancouver Public Library system now consists of 22 branches situated throughout the city. Since 2013, all branches are open at least Tuesday through Sunday.[28] The administration centre, and also the largest branch, known as the Central Branch, is located at Library Square in downtown Vancouver.

The oldest existing branch, the Kitsilano branch, is the regional reference library for the North Area division of the Libraries.[29] The largest non-Central branch in terms of volumes held, is the Renfrew Branch, with 325,000 volumes. The Renfrew Branch is listed as having the largest square footage, at 16,000 square feet, while the Kensington branch at 7,100 square feet is one of the larger branch libraries.[15]

The approximate number of volumes in each VPL branch are:

  1. Central: 1.4 million[30]
  2. Renfrew: 325,000
  3. Mount Pleasant: 200,000
  4. Kitsilano: 110,000[31]
  5. Oakridge: 82,000
  6. Terry Salman: 81,000
  7. Joe Fortes: 80,000
  8. Dunbar: 75,000
  9. Hastings: 74,000
  10. Britannia: 70,000[32]
  11. Firehall: 60,000
  12. West Point Grey: 59,000
  13. Kensington: 58,000
  14. Champlain Heights: 51,000
  15. Marpole: 39,000[33]
  16. Collingwood: 50,000
  17. Fraserview: 49,000
  18. Kerrisdale: 48,000
  19. Outreach: 37,000
  20. South Hill: 30,000
  21. nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona:[26] 28,000
  22. Carnegie: 11,000[34]

Central branch

The Central branch of Vancouver Public Library is located in Downtown Vancouver.

Consolidating Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch, Federal Office Tower, and retail and service facilities, the Library Square occupies a city block in Downtown Vancouver. Centred on the block, the library 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 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 were previously leased to the Provincial government. Their address was 360 West Georgia Street.

VPL Central branch internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed concourse formed by a second elliptical wall that defines the east side of the site. This 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 resembles the current appearance of the Colosseum in Rome.[35]

VPL Central branch internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed concourse formed by an elliptical wall.

Adjacent to the Central Branch is Library Square, a public 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) designed by Moshe Safdie as a complementary building to library square. 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.[6]: 262  The design by Safdie and DA Architects was by far the most radical design and yet was the public favourite. 70% of the public liked the Safdie scheme as a "unique, imaginative, exciting, interesting building."[6]: 263  The inclusion of the 21 story 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. In the year following the new library's opening, library visitors increased by 800,000.[6]: 264 

In addition to its function as the central branch of the city's public library system, the one square block project 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 accessible by the public. The new 8,000-sq-ft rooftop garden and the expansion to Level 9 were built at a cost of $15.5 million; they opened to the public in September 2018. The expansion is LEED Gold CIv1 certified, managed by Light House Sustainable Building Centre.[36]


Library building (including retail and parking)

Image gallery

See also


  1. ^ "Vancouver Public Library Annual Report 2013". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  2. ^ "Vancouver Public Library Annual Report 2013". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  3. ^ "Population".
  4. ^ "Vancouver Public Library Annual Report 2013". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  5. ^ 48.6 million (2017) Archived 13 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine Vancouver Public Library Annual Report 2012]
  6. ^ a b c d Punter, John (2003). "Downtown Vancouver, 1991–2000". The Vancouver Achievement: Urban Planning and Design. UBC Press. ISBN 978-0-7748-0972-6.
  7. ^ "Vancouver Public Library Annual Report 2013". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  8. ^ "Carnegie Branch".
  9. ^ Canada's Historic Places – Carnegie Centre, 401 Main Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A, Canada
  10. ^ The History of Carnegie Centre, UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications
  11. ^ Carnegie Community Centre History
  12. ^ Nitschke banned from Canada library
  13. ^ Suicide workshop survives cancellation
  14. ^ Vancouver church hosts right-to-die doctor
  15. ^ a b c "Vancouver Public Library History". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  16. ^ a b Pacific Northwest Libraries. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press. 1926. p. 38. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Goodman, a family history".
  18. ^ Davis, Chuck, ed. (1976). The Vancouver Book. North Vancouver, British Columbia: J.J. Douglas. pp. 421–422. ISBN 0-88894-084-X.
  19. ^ "Librarian Robinson Dies". The Province. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 25 October 1957. p. 8. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  20. ^ "The Vancouver Sun 07 Nov 1957, page 28". The Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 7 November 1957. p. 28. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  21. ^ "New library director admits he's no expert". The Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 12 July 1979. p. 8. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  22. ^ "Paul Whitney – Keep Calm and Carry On or Freak Out and Throw Stuff; The Public Library Moving Forward |". Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  23. ^ "Library Management". Archived from the original on 26 May 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  24. ^ "Christina de Castell". Vancouver Public Library. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Vancouver Public Library: About the Library". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  26. ^ a b The nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona Branch
  27. ^ "New Strathcona library and social housing complex opens". 19 April 2017. Archived from the original on 17 January 2021.
  28. ^ The Branch Libraries
  29. ^ The Kitsilano Branch
  30. ^ "Vancouver Public Library – Branch Details". Archived from the original on 14 July 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  31. ^ "Vancouver Public Library – Branch Details". Archived from the original on 14 July 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  32. ^ "Vancouver Public Library – Branch Details". Archived from the original on 17 July 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  33. ^ "Vancouver Public Library – Branch Details". Archived from the original on 17 July 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  34. ^ "Vancouver Public Library – Branch Details". Archived from the original on 14 July 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  35. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). 'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. Fitzhenry and Whiteside.
  36. ^ "Vancouver Public Library unveils new community spaces and much anticipated rooftop garden". Vancouver Public Library. 29 September 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2018.

49°16′47″N 123°06′56″W / 49.279719°N 123.115625°W / 49.279719; -123.115625 (Vancouver Public Library)