Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre eyes library, more growth

Community hub will consider more space for a variety of services, including a new library, as it grows over time.

The Sidney branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library service. The VIRL has been consulting with the District of North Saanich and Town of Sidney on future growth of local library services.

More library services are required on the Saanich Peninsula.

That was a finding almost two years ago by the Vancouver Island Regional Library service, which delivers library services to Sidney and North Saanich. They currently have one branch — in Sidney — and have been discussing options for expansion.

One of those options could be a partnership with the Mary Winspear Centre.

Late last year, the District of North Saanich discussed the option of possibly having a library branch at Panorama Recreation Centre, to facilitate the VIRL’s desire to grow in the area. Those discussions were put on hold when the Mary Winspear Centre began speaking with library representatives.

Mary Winspear Centre Executive Director Brad Edgett confirmed they have been talking to officials with the VIRL about opportunities to locate a library at the community centre. While still in the very early stages of discussion, he said adding library space at the Centre could mesh well with their long-term expansion plans.

“The discussion centred around if there was an opportunity for a new library … does it make sense to build a new one or have a branch at the Mary Winspear Centre?”

Edgett said they are a community cultural centre first and foremost.

“And one of the ways to grow,” he continued, “ is to be inclusive of all of our community partners.”

With long-term plans to expand the Centre — Edgett said they could fill the space right now if they could — including a library might be a good fit.

“But it’s very early days right now.”

He added the VIRL has, in the meantime, renewed its lease with the Town of Sidney for its current space on Resthaven Drive. The VIRL has reported that the space is in need of improvements and/or expansion to meet the current demand for library services.

“We will continue talking with the VIRL,” he said, “and put numbers on paper at some points and provide that information to both municipal councils.”

The Memorial Park Society, which operated the Centre, changed trust documents last year that make expansion possible, Edgett added.

He said while most people will link that change with the Town’s effort to locate its proposed new community safety building near the community hub, it was also done to give the Society more options.

Edgett said places like the Community Arts Council of the Saanich Peninsula and Sidney Museum are also looking to expand — and could be part of any future expansion at the Mary Winspear Centre.

“We’re not going anywhere. The Society has been here since 1921.”

Edgett said he thinks there is a lot of potential now for the Centre to grow and fit in with the vision of both North Saanich and Sidney.

“All of this is very early,” he said, “but it’s important to know what’s going on behind the scenes.”

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