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5 things you (probably) didn't know about the Vancouver Public Library

From very late books to RFID tags, here are a few things you may not know about the VPL
Clockwise from top left: The interior of the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library, a long lost book, the Carnegie Library in 1907, the former downtown library branch at Robson and Burrard).

The Vancouver Public Library (VPL) is one of the major services provided by the city, arguably the largest cultural service.

With a foundation that predates the municipal government itself, the VPL has had a significant impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living here over the years.

And it's left a mark on the city physically, several libraries and former libraries are notable in the city, either for the architecture or location (or both).

So here are five things you may not have known about the long time local book lender.

1. Instruments can be borrowed as well

In fact lots of things can be lent out from the VPL. Among them, though, is a sizable instrument contingent, with everything from mandolins to a glockenspiel to a doumbek.

2. Vancouver had a Carnegie Library

Vancouver's main branch, while having moved a couple times, often is housed in a notable building.

Before the current downtown branch, with it's colesium-like appearance, was built the building at 750 Burrard St. (at the intersection with Robson) was a library for nearly 40 years. Recently Victoria's Secret left the space.

And before that Andrew Carnegie paid for one. The American steel magnate was behind some 3,000 libraries after selling his company for the equivalent of USD $11 billion in 2024 money.

It still stands, too. It's now the Carnegie Community Centre at Main and Hastings.

3. VPLgold shares bizarre books

Ever wondered if there's a guide to naturism in Canada? Ever needed ramen recipes from prisons? Ever been curious what the Reagans liked to watch? Ever asked which animals fart?

All of those are the subjects of real books found by VPLGold, an Instagram account that shares unusual books in the VPL system and none of these titles are ones expected at a library.

4. Using conveyor belts and RFID tags

To keep up with the millions of books and other items lent out from all the branches in the library system, a very high tech system is used.

A conveyor belt system is used to move things about, while books and other materials get RFID tags on them, to make it quick and easy to identify where they belong. 

5. A very late book

For one person, it's a good thing late fees were done away with.

One book (a collection of three plays called Mrs. McConaghy's MoneyA Quiet Twelfth, and Collecting the Rent) was due back on Oct. 26, 1937 and returned to the VPL system a whopping 31,000 days late.