Fraser Valley Regional Library

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Fraser Valley Regional Library
FVRL wiki.jpg
Established 1930[1]
Branches 24[2]
Items collected Books, CDs, DVDs, Online Resources[3]
Size 1,318,502[4]
Access and use
Population served 680,000[4]
Members 360,620[3]

Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) is the largest public library system in British Columbia, Canada, with 24 community libraries serving nearly 680,000 people in its service area. Established in 1930, it is funded with taxes raised in the community it serves, plus a Government of British Columbia operating grant. The governing board consists of elected officials representing 15 member municipalities and regional districts. With its mission "To Connect People to the World of Information and Ideas", FVRL plays a prominent role in the communities throughout the Fraser Valley.

Founding 1927-1930[edit]

Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL), established in 1930 in the Fraser Valley area of British Columbia (BC), was the first system of its kind in North America.[citation needed]

The idea of bringing the library to the rural population in BC began in 1927. The Provincial Public Library Commission organized a province-wide survey[5] of library services in BC. The key finding from the survey was that large administrative library districts based on cooperation, and resource sharing between municipalities and school districts should be created to serve BC’s rural communities who could not afford to provide a library service on their own. Based on this recommendation, the Commission sought funding to carry out an initial trial project.

It began serving residents in the early 1930s with the introduction of the Fraser Valley Book Van. The Book Van was the public library to the rural residents from Ladner to Hope. This travelling library, which displayed books along its outside shelves, travelled through the valley to small towns and villages stopping at grocery stores, schoolhouses and gas stations. Each stop meant that the book collection would transform as books were borrowed and returned. The Book Van system operated in conjunction with local libraries in located in the larger towns throughout the valley.

Demonstration project 1930-1934[edit]

The Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded a grant of $100,000 to establish and maintain a rural library project for five years. After considering various regions of the province, the Commission selected the Fraser Valley as the site of BC’s book experiment.

The Commission knew that it would require a dedicated effort to carryout the demonstration project. The library’s first director Dr. Helen Gordon Stewart successfully met this challenge. With enormous energy, Stewart went about organizing the district, selecting books, hiring staff and purchasing a truck suitable for use as a book van. She personally visited councils and public meetings, convincing residents and politicians of the value of cooperation and resource sharing that would lead to a viable library system.

Covering an area of approximately 2,600 square kilometres, and containing 24 separate governing bodies, the Fraser Valley Book Van made its first public appearance in July 1930. Administrative headquarters for the project was located in New Westminster while Chilliwack served as the main distribution centre. The number of borrowers quickly soared, and six other libraries opened soon after.

Creation of the Fraser Valley Union Library 1934-1950[edit]

In order to continue library service to the Fraser Valley after the Carnegie funds were exhausted, residents were asked to vote whether they wished to support the library through local taxes. A referendum was scheduled for January 1934. The timing was difficult since taxpayers were asked to vote in favour of higher taxes during a severe economic depression. Stewart and her staff launched a massive campaign of public meetings, handouts, posters and newspaper articles to gain support. Twenty of the original 24 areas voted "yes" and the Fraser Valley Union Library was created as the first regional library system in North America.

The resources of the Carnegie Demonstration Project were turned over to the new Library Board of Management on September 28, 1934, during a ceremony held in Chilliwack, BC. At this time, Stewart left the Fraser Valley to organize other regional libraries. Soon after, the library headquarters was relocated to its present location in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

In order to establish the first operating budget, board members voted a per capita tax rate of 35 cents. This low rate of support was a severe handicap to the library service until 1950, when the rate was raised to 40 cents. Even with member municipalities providing rent-free facilities, the library system has always had a challenge of operating with one of the lowest tax levies in the province.[citation needed]

Present day[edit]

In 1951, the official name was changed to the Fraser Valley Regional Library District (FVRL).

FVRL is the largest public library system in British Columbia. With a mission “to connect people to the world of information and ideas”[citation needed] FVRL’s customer base includes all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. To its diverse[clarification needed] customers, FVRL offers free:

  • Access to popular and relevant materials through a “floating collection” of over 1.3 million items.
  • Information and referral services delivered by knowledgeable staff.
  • Programming that reflects community priorities and interests, including some presented in collaboration with community partners.
  • 24/7 online services, including access to eBooks and online resources.

FVRL is governed by a board of directors and financially supported by its member municipalities and through a Government of BC operating grant. Board members are elected officials of its member municipalities.

FVRL has created unique[clarification needed] cost saving partnerships with its member municipalities. Operating expenses are kept low through shared centralized purchasing, administrative and programming services. Staffing, collections, information technology (IT) and other library service costs are shared between member municipalities and apportioned through a member-created funding formula. For example, cost savings are realized by having a centrally based IT department providing stable and secure IT infrastructure for the 24 libraries and Administrative Centre. IT, like all departments, is constantly seeking opportunities and solutions to enhance IT services to both customers and staff.[6]

FVRL’s buildings, with the exception of the Administrative Centre, are planned, owned and maintained by the municipalities they reside in. Each of FVRL's libraries has its own local flair, reflecting the unique characteristics[6] of the communities they serve. Operating and Services Agreements between FVRL and its member municipalities outline who is responsible for each of the various aspects of operating the libraries.

Special collections[edit]

World languages[edit]

FVRL has recognized the need to better serve the culturally diverse communities in which it operates and has allotted $80,000 per year to its World Languages Collection. The collection is split between the 24 branches and consists of over 42,000 items in 14 languages. It includes a mix of both adult and children's fiction and non-fiction books, DVDs and CDs. The collection includes the following languages:

  • Chinese
  • Dutch
  • French
  • German
  • Hindi
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Persian
  • Polish
  • Punjabi
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese

Lifelong learning programs[edit]

FVRL supports lifelong learning and literacy. To promote ongoing learning and literacy within the community FVRL offers various programs and workshops for all age groups from toddlers to seniors. Programs include:

  • Storytimes
  • Author readings
  • Computer and Internet classes
  • Credit management
  • Family reading clubs
  • How to write a will


Year Award Giver
2011 People's Choice Award (Chilliwack) Harrison Agassiz Chamber of Commerce
2011 Inclusive Environment Award (Chilliwack) Abbotsford Community Services
2011 Merit Award for Festival of Aboriginal Arts BC Library Association
2011 Sheila Nickols Heritage Achievement Award for Community History and Heritage Teaching (Maple Ridge) District of Maple Ridge
2009 BCLA Merit Award for Programs - Aboriginal Outreach Services BC Library Association
2006 Merit Award for Grades 4-5 Reading Link Challenge BC Library Association
2006 Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Award in Marketing and Outreach Abbotsford Community Services
2006 Innovator of the Year Award for launch of Live Homework Help
2006 W. Kaye Lambe Award for Services to Seniors Canadian Library Association and Ex Libris Association


FVRL has an Administrative Centre located in Abbotsford and 24 community branches located in 15 municipalities.

Agassiz Aldergrove Boston Bar
Brookswood Chilliwack Clearbrook
Fort Langley George Mackie Hope
Ladner Pioneer City of Langley Maple Ridge
Mission Mount Lehman MSA Centennial
Muriel Arnason Murrayville Pitt Meadows
Tsawwassen Terry Fox Walnut Grove
White Rock Yale Yarrow

Strategic plans[edit]


  1. ^ FVRL History
  2. ^ Branch Locations
  3. ^ a b Annual Report 2007
  4. ^ a b Annual Report 2009
  5. ^ 1927-1928 BC Library Survey
  6. ^ a b FVRL - Who We Are 2011

External links[edit]