Vancouver Public Library named world's best city library

The Vancouver Public Library has been named one of the world’s top public libraries. Scholars from Germany’s Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf surveyed libraries in 31 cities around the world and tied the VPL and Bibliothèques Montréal for No. 1.

“Vancouver is a world-class city and we’re extremely pleased and humbled to be recognized as a top world-class library,” Sandra Singh, VPL’s chief librarian, stated in a news release today (December 18). “It’s gratifying to be in such esteemed library company, and we’re excited to be playing a part in highlighting Vancouver on the world map through our work supporting an informed, engaged, and connected city.”

Libraries were judged on their services, physical spaces, and online resources, as well as how they supported their cities.

Other public libraries recognized on the list, which has been published in LIBRI: International Journal of Libraries and Information Services, include those in Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, and Shanghai. 

Comments (18) Add New Comment
Anne Jerome
Lucky for all us Lower Mainlanders!
Thanks to all the VPL employees and volunteers for helping this library to be one of the world's 'Greats'.
Rating: +19
Juan Carlos
This must come from the same people who labelled Vancouver beaches among the top 10 in the world.
Rating: +6
Frederic da Silva
Is this some kind of joke? Did the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf speak to a single employee, or did they just look at pictures on the internet?

The management of the Vancouver Public Library has done nothing but cut services and undermine the basic rights of the very workers who strive so hard to provide the best service to the public, all the while greedily accepting large raises for themselves. As a matter of public record, Chief Librarian Sandra Singh is paid $171,582 annually while city Mayor Gregor Robertson receives $143,723. Is it not outrageous that Ms. Singh makes $27,859 PER YEAR more than the MAYOR?

But if you ask the library board why the books are so shoddily bound, or why there are not staffers to help find things, all you'll hear is the same song and dance about budget cuts and blah, blah, blah.

If there is a more undeserving candidate for "top public library", I would be amazed.
Rating: +5
I can't say whether the staff are the best, probably pretty good. Obviously the amazing architecture of the downtown library helped.
Rating: +10
I love books and enjoy the library. I also think Richmond's public library is pretty good considering the size of the city.
Just wish we could have four weeks with a book instead of three in Vancouver.
Rating: +1
I'm afraid that Mr. da Silva is generally correct. Libraries in North America are infected by a culture of populism. Like education and healthcare, (and Canada Post) the "customer-service model" has become a kind of ironic byword for anti-intellectualism and upward redistribution of income.

The old imperative of public institutions--libraries, art galleries, universities--to EDUCATE (not entertain) has been flushed down the toilet.

Rating: +8
Alan Layton
Lol. Regardless of what it is, whenever something in Vancouver is praised it brings out all of the most miserable people in the city to whine and complain. This isn't about what 'awful' thing happened to you when you didn't get service immediately and it's not about what library workers get paid. Being rated first with Montreal is something to be proud of. The main library downtown is still one of the nicest buildings in the city and the interior is also very bright, warm, efficient and welcoming. In this day and age when people are too lazy to put down their phones, get up off their fat butts and go outside, it's refreshing to walk in to the library and seeing the large numbers of people from all walks of life enjoying themselves. Kudos to the VPL and Sandra Singh is worth every penny that she gets paid.
Rating: -508
Did they even visit? Last time I was there I was SHOCKED at how most of the "clientele" were straight up homeless people complete with garbage stank and bags of shit taking naps at all the tables with no staffers in sight anywhere to help me find anything. Having grown up in this city and remembering when the library opened and how magical it used to seem, it was really jarring to find it in a state of disrepair like that and filled with literally dozens of street people
Rating: +6
It's a crock really. As a heavy library user since 1986, I've seen nothing but a decline. For one thing, there are fewer and fewer books and more empty shelves.

There are more and more graphic novels though, for the attention-span impaired.

I don't know what happened to the French DVD section, it was halved, and now the shelves are nearly empty.

If you look at films from abroad in other languages it is hard to find anything watchalbe.

If you look for German language films, whoever selects those seems to to be single minded and prejudiced and only pick movies about Nazis and homosexuals. You'd think WWII was still on, never mind the thoughtful, interesting, passionate, artistic and funny films that have come out of German since 1950.

Nice chairs though. Glad to see my municipal tax money is going somewhere.

Rating: -3
Alan Layton
To all of the whiners about a decline in service, did it ever occur to you that all libraries are in decline?
Rating: +5
William Gibbens of Influency
"Chief" Librarian Sandra Singh and Board "Chair" Catherine Evans and a raft fellow appointees have achieved a new low in "Public" standards - replacing respect for the public and individuals as well as "Professional" independence with the putrid pall of politically driven patsyism emanating from City Hall.

Singh's Philosophy" is that, "it is not appropriate to have an individual who is not representing a legitimate organization speaking at Library events".

The fact that without individual's voices we would not even have books - let alone libraries - seems to escape Ms. Singh's intellectual capacity.

Thus, the VPL today is more a private club for for-profit-and-non-profit corporations with a gathering disdain for individual citizens of Vancouver than ever before... For example(s): the VPL's involvement in the ridiculous premise of the "SFU Public Square" being avalable only to groups.

In April 2013 I wrote to SFU. My concern at the time was, "that the overall approach neglects completely the foundation of community in individual involvement and expression opting for a corporate model which presents many pitfalls to open, public discourse." SFU itself did change their policy at the last minute and extended deadlines. But, frankly, it was too little too late. Between them SFU, VPL and the Vancouver Fondation - not to mention the Vancouver Mayor's office showed their true colours. Hardly a "Community Brain Trust" if you ask me.

More recently the VPL's resoundingly unoriginal and (according to Evans in her recent "Strategic Plan" pitch to City Council) poorly attended "Touch" fundraiser for a "Dis-Inspiration" Lab merely invited the lower classes come-by twitter.

Rating: +4
Hi Fred - the French DVD collection has not been reduced, the library has started to move French DVDs to all the branches in Vancouver instead of just keeping them all at Central. They are all still in the system and can be requested for pick up at any branch as usual.
Rating: +3
William Gibbens of Influency - how horrible! This is the end of civilization as we know it. Thanks for informing us of this ghastly turn of events.
Rating: -3
Actually the headline is a half-truth. It is *tied* with Montreal's Library for best in the world.
Rating: -125
@Colin - libraries can be a wonderful resource for homeless people, as they can provide (a) a safe, dry place and (b) resources - books, magazines, computer access, etc. A public library in San Francisco took this to another level by providing social workers for its homeless patrons.

A library is there to serve everyone - not just those with homes. Peace.
Rating: +1
Barbara Rodrigues
I miss there!! The best place of Vancouver.
I lived for six months close to the library, my English was zero when I arrived there, I got sad when I couldn't understand the books, but I was learning day by day, and the VPL helped me a lot!!

I took a lot of kid's books, beginner's books and DVDs.

Everybody was very polite with me and the place is very comfortable.

*Sorry about my grammar mistakes, I started to learn English last December.
Rating: +11

The SF Public library also devastated its book and serial collections in an attempt to help homeless people. The homeless people already have their own branch over on Main Street. It is specifically designed to serve them--it has few books and long hours because that is what the homeless want.

Since the homeless are a viable interest group, what about the public intellectuals--can't they have their own branch? The Central Library can be renamed the "Research Library," and all popular reading removed from that library and put into the branches, where they belong.
Rating: -4
Alan Layton
Hazlit - The Main St branch is tiny and it is was most definitely not designed for the homeless, especially since the highest homeless density is downtown. I have never been hampered when doing research by the homeless in the main branch. It is not a haven for the homeless either and I get the feeling you've never been in there. I can't believe some of the bullshit that is being spread about the VPL on here.
Rating: +5
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