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Newer, bigger library for Willoughby part of rec centre plans in Langley

Township council switches track from leased space for next library branch
Books on the shelves of the Fraser Valley Regional Library branch in Langley City. (Langley Advance Times files)

Langley Township’s plans for a new library for Willoughby have expanded, but it does mean that the new branch won’t be open as soon as previously planned.

Under the last council, through 2021 and 2022, the Township was moving forward with plans to lease a space in a mixed commercial-residential building near the Willoughby Town Centre, in the 7900 block of 206A Street

The second-floor facility would have an elevated parking lot, and would have had a total of about 13,000 square feet in space available.

Council debated as far back as early 2021 whether the space would be enough for Willoughby, the Township’s fastest-growing and largest neighbourhood with more than 35,000 residents.

READ MORE: Scope of proposed Willoughby library debated by Township council

Mayor Eric Woodward, who was then a councillor, objected to the plan.

Following November’s election, Woodward and his Contract with Langley slate brought in plans for a major new rec centre in the Yorkson Community Park, which is to include a pool as well as space for a library.

“I thought it was a missed opportunity,” Woodward said of the previous library plan.

The new project hasn’t got a detailed design or scope yet, but Woodward expects the library will be larger than the one previously proposed.

READ MORE: ‘Fact-finding’ begins on new pool, soccer campus, ice rink for Willoughby area

“Willoughby combined will be more than 100,000 people,” when it’s fully developed, Woodward noted.

The community will need better facilities, including a bigger library.

It also makes more financial sense to build their own facility, Woodward said.

The leased library space would have cost about $1 million in tenant improvements, plus about $250,000 in annual rent.

In 2021, Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) staff estimated an annual operating cost of about $1 million for the original planned location.

The new proposed location will be on the north side of 80th Avenue, not far from the previous planned location.

The original leased library space was expected to be open by sometime in late 2024 to early 2025.

Because the new project is still in the planning stages, the Township is now looking at somewhere around 2025 to 2026 for the new proposed library.

“We’re pushing the management as fast as we can to build a quality facility,” Woodward said.

At present, there’s no library in Willoughby. The nearest libraries are the Muriel Arnason branch on 65th Avenue in the Township Civic Facility in Willowbrook, and the Walnut Grove branch in the Walnut Grove Recreation Centre.

Langley is a member of the FVRL network, which includes more than a dozen communities, including large ones like Langley, Maple Ridge, and Abbotsford, as well as tiny hamlets like Boston Bar.

Some costs are shared, but each municipal government pays for the operations of its own library branches. Some communities opt for one main central branch, while Langley Township has smaller branches in each neighbourhood.

The FVRL is the largest library system in B.C., with more cardholders than the Vancouver Public Library. However, unlike Vancouver’s library system, it does not have a foundation dedicated to fundraising.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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