VICTORIA -- The Greater Victoria Public Library service (GVPL) has laid off more than 150 regular and auxiliary employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In total, 51 auxiliary staff members and 117 regular employees will be notified of their layoffs in the coming weeks.

The auxiliary employees, who were on paid leave since the libraries first closed on March 16, will receive their official dismissal notice on May 8.

Meanwhile, the 117 regular employees will receive their paid leave until May 15. After May 15, a second paid leave period will kick in and last for an additional eight weeks, as outlined by the union’s collective agreement.

“This decision was extremely difficult for us, and we reluctantly determined that initiating the layoff process was in the best interests of the organization,” said GVPL board chair Deborah Begoray in a statement Tuesday.

Currently, 53 regular library staff members remain working to support digital services and maintain the region’s IT systems.

The GVPL board says that it plans to reintroduce library services when provincial health guidelines allow it. Should work become available, the organization says that regular staff members will be called back in for work.

“Our greatest hope is that we may be in a position to reintroduce components of service delivery through our branches before the layoffs take effect, while following provincial health directives,” said Begoray.

“At this moment in time, we must get the process underway.”

The Greater Victoria Public Library has 12 branches across 10 municipalities in the region. The GVPL’s digital services can be found online here