VICTORIA -- Libraries across the Greater Victoria region will begin reopening in a phased approach starting next month.

According to the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) Board, the Central branch library in Victoria will have a limited reopening by the end of June, which will mark phase 1 of the GVPL’s reopening plan.

Through the limited reopening, people will be able to place any item from the GVPL on hold and pick it up from the Central branch located at 735 Broughton Street.

Visitors will also be able to browse a limited collection of material to be borrowed on the spot. The Central branch will be open from Monday through Saturday for four hours each day, though exact timing has not been released yet.

Meanwhile, people will be able to return books at the James Bay, Langford Heritage and Emily Carr branches through the libraries’ automated handling machines at this time.

The Langford Heritage branch’s “library vending machine” will also be open for movie, book and video game rentals.

“Our priority during the pandemic is to protect the health and safety of our staff and patrons,” said Maureen Sawa, GVPL CEO.

The second phase of the GVPL’s reopening plans will begin in July and August. Phase two will include the reopening of six more branches, three in each month.

Once those branches are reopened, visitors will be able to return books, pick up items on hold and browse a small collection of materials at each of the six libraries.

The libraries that will reopen in phase two are: Saanich Centennial, Central Saanich, Juan de Fuca, Oak Bay, James Bay and Bruce Hutchison branches.

The third and final phase of the GVPL’s reopening plans will include the reopening of five library branches towards the end of the summer. The libraries will reopen with measures in place similar to the previously opened branches, and will implement any lessons learned during earlier reopenings.

While a rough timeline has been presented, the GVPL says that exact dates will be announced in the future. The reopening of the Central branch will be announced two weeks before it opens.

“I am pleased to announce our plan to restore our popular holds pickup service,” said Sawa. “All patrons will be able to borrow physical library material in June.”

“I say this on behalf of the library board, staff, volunteers and our municipal partners: we miss you, and we welcome you back to our first service point in Victoria in June.”