Barry Avis, chair of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) Board of Trustees, is the 2018 winner of the British Columbia Library Trustees Association (BCLTA) Advocate Award. The award recognizes the advocacy work Avis carried out on behalf of VIRL in 2017.
Avis, who is also a Qualicum Beach councillor, is currently in his second year as chair of the VIRL board. he previously sat on the board from 2003-2011.
“Since being elected as chair of the board in 2017, Barry has stepped into his role with passion and forward-thinking ideas, and has been an absolute pleasure to work with,” says VIRL’s executive director, Rosemary Bonanno. “I am thrilled that the BCLTA has recognized Barry’s outstanding work by awarding him this prestigious prize. It could not have gone to a more deserving recipient.”
In the last year, Avis worked with his fellow trustees to write letters to MLAs, including the premier, to remind provincial politicians of the “innovative, trailblazing initiatives happening in our libraries, and how the brunt of the funding now falls on the shoulders of local taxpayers,” according to a news release from the VIRL.
Avis, the release states, is also a strong advocate for Indigenous community members.
Under his leadership, the board of trustees now includes a First Nations acknowledgment at the beginning of every board and executive council meeting, and at the start of every meeting involving the public.
Avis put forward a similar motion at a Town of Qualicum Beach council meeting. At the Nov. 20, 2017 meeting, Avis put forward a motion to acknowledge First Nations at the beginning of meetings. The motion was deferred and hasn’t come up at council since.
Avis is also an active supporter of VIRL’s Indigenous Voices initiative, which invites Indigenous elders to speak at branches throughout the library system. He encourages each trustee to attend the Indigenous Voices events in their communities, and to invite other stakeholders, such as municipal councils and provincial MLAs, to the events.
Avis said the driving force for him is being involved. He said he could remember back to his first full-time job, when the president of the company asked him what he did.
“He knew what I did, and I explained what I do each day and what I’m responsible for but something he said right at the end of the conversation stuck with me, and he said, ‘But are you involved?’” said Avis.
“I thought that comment really says it all. It’s one thing to have a job and do things, but are you realy involved? That’s kind of been the driving force for me.”
On the capital projects file, Avis is committed to ensuring that VIRL communities receive new and refurbished branches to suit their evolving needs. In 2017, he attended and spoke at every public consultation and open house.
Avis said he’s asked VIRL senior staff when the last time an award such as this was given to the board chair, and he said he was told they can’t remember in their history.
“I’m just one person… We’ve got a huge, committed board of trustees and fabulous staff, so receiving this on behalf of our library association is quite nice.”
Avis will receive his award at the BCLA Awards luncheon on Friday, May 11.
— NEWS Staff/VIRL news release