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Libraries in Canada

Before the pandemic, libraries were open to the public for reading, learning, studying, and most of all finding books and other literature. With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has definitely changed, as most libraries along with many other facilities closed down due to the spread of this virus. Here's an update as to how the libraries in various provinces are beginning to reopen, as well as some tips to stay safe.

British Columbia

  • Vancouver: The Vancouver Public Library has moved into "the next phase of reopening" which includes limited services that follow substantial health and safety regulations and social distancing rules. Note that the VPL is keeping the maximum allotted time for each individual at 30 minutes.

At the following locations, customers will have access to computers, borrowing and returning, and book takeouts:

Please check the hyperlinks to find out more information on your nearest location; some branches may not be offering certain services or have different hours.


  • Calgary: The Calgary Public Library (CPL) has reopened all 21 of its branches with health and safety regulations and strict social distancing rules. A couple of locations are dedicated to prioritizing senior citizens every morning. By going to library locations, visitors can find times during which the library is available. Additionally, this video gives customers a clear explanation of what measures are in place to protect them and staff.

While locations are open, not all services will be for use. For instance, in-person events and programs, room bookings, book donations, and play materials and structures in Early Learning Centres will not be available. In general, printing/copying, desktop computer access (with a two-hour time limit), collection access (checkouts/in-location access), and seating will be offered with limited capacity.

If you are not comfortable with entering a library, a contactless curbside pick-up service called Curbside Holds Service is offered everywhere except Rocky Ridge, Nicholls Family, and Sage Hill libraries. Additional information can be found at https://calgarylibrary.ca/library-news/what-to-know-before-visiting-the-library-2/ and https://calgarylibrary.ca/reopening.


  • Saskatoon: The Saskatoon Public Library (SPL) is approaching reopening with a 5-step plan. As of August 25th, they have begun Stage 3 which includes collection browsing, computer use (with a one-hour maximum), use of printers, telephones and washrooms, outreach worker support, contactless pickup, grab & go bags, hold pickup, book returns, and virtual services. Note that this is just a general list and https://saskatoonlibrary.ca/about/reopen-plan/ and its subsections should be consulted for exceptions.

Here is when specific locations are opening, depending on the number of cases they currently have:

  • Dr. Freda Ahenakew Library: Tue, Aug 25

  • Mayfair Library: Mon, Aug 31

  • Cliff Wright Library: Tue, Sep 8

  • Alice Turner Library: Tue, Sep 8

  • Frances Morrison Central Library: Mon, Sep 14

  • Rusty Macdonald Library: Mon, Sep 14

  • J.S. Wood Library: Mon, Sep 21

  • Carlyle King Library: Mon, Sep 21

  • Round Prairie Library: Mon, Sep 21

To get information on a specific branch, visit https://saskatoonlibrary.ca/locations/.


  • Winnipeg: All libraries are partially open except for the Cornish Library (for renovations) with health and safety regulations, social distancing rules, and severe limitations on services. Open branches are offering pick-up service, telephone reference service, new library memberships and card renewals, and return of library materials that have been borrowed. Their electronic library continues to operate as usual.

For information on individual branches including hours and services, click here: https://guides.wpl.winnipeg.ca/covid19services.


  • Toronto and the GTA: As of August 27th, the Toronto Public Library (TPL) is in stage 3 of their reopening plan with regular hours at branches that are open. Their services currently include browsing and borrowing items, Wi-Fi use, holds and pick-up, self check-out, new library cards, access to computers and printers. There is currently limited seating for studying and reading, and children's areas are open but interactive components closed. The online library continues to operate as usual.

Note that not all locations are open. Visitors should refer to https://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/programming/our-reopening-plan.html and https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/branches/ for availability and hours.

  • Ottawa: Open locations offer “returns, holds pickup, browsing, use of public computers by appointment, readers’ advisory, information, reference services, and card registration.” Most libraries in Ottawa are now open: Alta Vista, Beaverbrook, Blackburn Hamlet, Carlingwood, Carp, Centennial, Cumberland, Elmvale Acres, Emerald Plaza, Greely, Greenboro, Main, Nepean Centrepointe, North Gloucester, North Gower, Richmond, Ruth E. Dickinson, Stittsville, St. Laurent, and Vanier.

  • At the Metcalfe Village and Rosemount Temporary Location branches, the contactless/curbside returns and holds pickup service is available (although holds require an appointment). The bookmobile is operating on a modified schedule.

Open locations, hours, services and FAQ are detailed more clearly here: https://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/current-branch-services


  • Québec: Les bibliothèques sont maintenant ouvertes suivant les heures originales avec des précautions de santé et de sécurité. Aux branches plus populaires, c’est possible qu’il y aura des limitations sur le montant de temps qu’un visiteur pourrait passer la dedans.

Pour obtenir des informations (heures d’opération, services, etc) quant à une branche spécifique, voyez: https://www.bibliothequedequebec.qc.ca/bibliotheques/index.aspx. Pour des informations plus générales, voyez: https://www.bibliothequedequebec.qc.ca/covid-19/.

Nova Scotia:

  • Halifax: Most libraries in Halifax are open in stage 2, which includes the following services: in-person service, holds on physical items, curbside pick-up, e-library and virtual programs and book drops.

For specific library hours and services, click here: https://halifax.bibliocommons.com/locations/list/_ga=2.68614161.1452810875.1598560823-685626933.1598560823.

To check general status, click here: https://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/support/covid19-status-of-library-service/.

Other libraries:

If your province, territory or city was not indicated here, most information is summarized by city. Looking up “(Your city) Public Library COVID” should do the trick. Most information is neatly detailed there!

General precautions:

There are some general precautions one should and can take before going to any library, compiled across the websites the R2AC visited during the research for this article.

  • Do not go out if you or someone you have been in contact with has flu-like symptoms.

  • Wear a mask and social distance! This is mandatory. Most branches will offer hand sanitizer or access to sinks.

  • Check your library services beforehand using the links provided above (or look them up)! Certain hours may be different; one branch may offer a service that another does not.

  • Check the e-catalogue. If you have something in mind, consider placing a hold or verify that it’s there before showing up at the physical location. Libraries are trying to limit the time visitors spend in branches.

  • If possible, consider doing contactless pick-up to lower the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.

  • Prepare a bag, your library card, and returns before coming to the library.

  • If you have questions or concerns, attempt contacting library staff online and through the phone first.

When getting home:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly

  • Most branches have a book quarantine system in place but consider adding an additional 2-3 days of quarantine for your books

Featured image is courtesy of Polina Zimmerman

Article Author: Linda Duong

Article Editor: Valerie Shirobokov