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Camosun Library and Learning Commons - Lansdowne.

All photos courtesy of CHLa: Alec Watson, Digital Media Artist, MA Photographic Arts

April 7, 2011

Camosun's newly renovated Library and Learning Commons will receive the Building Merit Prize at the annual BC Library Association awards luncheon Saturday, April 9 at the Victoria Conference Centre. "We were hugely impressed by this project," says BCLA awards chair Ken Cooley. "It's amazing how far the Camosun team managed to stretch every available dollar. The end result is a complete transformation that seems incredible, considering the limited budget and tight timelines. That's why this project caught our attention and made us say, 'WOW!' "


College Librarian Sybil Harrison says the project was labelled a renovation, but was in fact a complete revitalization of the two libraries. "Library usage has nearly doubled at both campuses, and every single seat is taken for most of the day. Even on weekends, the libraries are packed for hours," says Harrison.

Harrison says being recognized by peers from BC's public, academic and health libraries validates the project. "The Building Merit Prize is particularly gratifying, because it acknowledges how we've managed to integrate so many services with high-quality spaces at both campuses. Students need places where they can meet in groups, study in quiet, access learning supports and technology, and even grab a snack. Together, these services create a vibrant and modern learning commons that enhances student experiences and contributes to their success."


"Research shows that while important things happen in the physical settings of classrooms, lecture halls, labs and trades shops, there's a whole lot of other learning, dreaming and inspiration that happens in a library. It's an intangible quality I like to call the space in between. These are the spaces that inspire, motivate and let people collaborate and contemplate," says Harrison.

Harrison credits much of the project success to architect Paul Hammond of Chow Low Hammond Architects Inc.. "The main challenge at Lansdowne was the semi-circular space and the massive columns," says Hammond. "We managed to raise the quality of the space by choosing the right materials, bringing in more natural light, and arranging the collections so they don't obstruct views to outside. We also introduced display spaces to showcase artwork by Camosun's Visual Arts and Fine Furniture students." Hammond notes that extensive use of glass partitions and bold use of colour allows students to feel the buzz before they even step through the doors.


Renovations were made possible thanks to Knowledge Infrastructure Program funding, and donors who gave generously to the Camosun College Foundation’s “Love Your Learning Library” capital campaign.

The BC Library Association awards are part of the 100th BCLA annual conference, A Century of Association, April 7 – 9. In addition to celebrating a vibrant history, local author Dave Obee will launch his latest book, The Library Book—A History of Service to British Columbia.

Photos courtesy of CHLa: Alec Watson, Digital Media Artist, MA Photographic Arts


Sybil Harrison, Camosun College Head Librarian


  • Total cost of renovations: $4.2M (construction, fittings, furniture and equipment)
  • Construction completed in three phases from November 2009 through August 2010; official re-dedication was on October 29, 2010.
  • Five themes, identified through consultation with students, staff and faculty, guided the planning and implementation of the renovation:
    • Theme 1: Create flexible spaces and incorporate a variety of comfortable, welcoming and aesthetically pleasing learning spaces
    • Theme 2: Create community by introducing seminar rooms, a coffee shop, display cases for student art, and social spaces for meetings and events
    • Theme 3: Embrace latest technology with additional student computers, lab techs who provide onsite assistance, wireless access points and ample electrical outlets to encourage use of laptops and mobile technology
    • Theme 4: Make it so students can easily navigate service areas using improved conventional and digital signage, colour-coded service areas, and improved entry points and wayfinding
    • Theme 5: Involve key support services to develop a one-stop area for student help and referral

Measures of success

  • Visits to the libraries have increased by 50%, with most of the seating fully used at any time of day
  • All service areas have experienced significant increase in demand
  • A new coffee shop opened adjacent to the Lansdowne library on March 18/11
  • The "Love Your Learning Library" campaign attracted internal and external community donors, exceeded fundraising targets, and raised over $265,000 for furniture and equipment

Major architectural, technical and service highlights

  • Incorporating flexibility and future needs were key design principals at both campuses,
  • Walls were taken down, rather than put up, creating open spaces that can be adapted to future needs
  • The amount of space taken up by staff functions was reduced; self-serve checkout was established; reference collections were decreased; periodical displays were placed along walls rather than on free-standing units
  • Camosun was innovative in procuring furniture: all lounge seating and task chairs were purchased from VANOC at greatly reduced prices
  • The construction was funded by the Knowlege Infrastructure Program, an economic stimulus program
  • Local companies won all the contracts, and many of the tradespeople working on the project were Camosun graduates
  • Library services remained uninterrupted during the building and renovation stages

Interurban features

  • Twenty-eight-seat silent study room; existing carrels refurbished and retrofitted with power outlets
  • Custom-built periodical display units
  • Display space for student projects—e.g., Fine Furniture, Visual Arts, Mechanical Engineering
  • Drafting tables for trades students
  • Forty-eight computers for student use
  • Six group study rooms featuring LCD screens, DVD/Video players
  • Seminar room with boardroom style table, moveable white-boards, LCD screen
  • Consolidated shelving to take up less space without reducing size of collection
  • Enhanced lounge space taking advantage of newly-revealed views

Lansdowne features

  • Five distinct work units providing services for students: Library services; Information technology; A/V services; Learning skills and writing centre; Learning and teaching centre
  • Thirty-seat multi-purpose room equipped with movable furniture for numerous configurations
  • Twenty-eight-seat learning lab
  • Ten-seat seminar room
  • Seven group study rooms
  • Two media rooms
  • Seventy-five lounge seats; 85 study carrels; 20 open tables with seating for 100; 82 computers for student use; eight study and seminar rooms equipped with LCD screen, laptop connector and DVD player
  • Three accessible workstations to accommodate students with disabilities; 20 wireless access points

Last updated: April 7, 2011 2:29 pm

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Camosun College Lansdowne
3100 Foul Bay Rd
Victoria BC V8P 5J2
Camosun College Interurban
4461 Interurban Rd
Victoria BC V9E 2C1
  • 250–370–3000
  • 1–877–554–7555 (toll-free)

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