Vancouver is Awesome: $5-million donation funding massive expansion of VPL’s Children’s Library


By Lindsay William-Ross


The expansion of the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch will continue with major enhancements to the Children’s Library, thanks to a $5 million private donation.

The Dilawri Foundation’s gift of $5 million is anticipated to be the largest private donation to a public library in Canada to date. The funds are destined for the Vancouver Public Library Foundation’s (VPLF) Storeys that Transform Campaign, which is a multi-phased capital project that is enabling the library to expand and enhance its services.

Phase one of the Storeys that Transform Campaign is the recently completed upper level and rooftop renovation of the VPL’s iconic downtown central branch. Those improvements created multiple new spaces for patrons to work, learn, and meet, and opened up the rooftop’s green space to the public for the first time.

To continue the improvements, phase two of Storeys that Transform focuses on the Children’s Library. The VPL has set out the parameters of the project, noting that the Dilawri Foundation donation will enable them to do the following:

Significantly expand the Children’s Library to add new activity spaces

Add new sensory learning elements for young children, including those with autism and/or other developmental disabilities. These will incorporate seating and hands-on learning structures which create an inclusive and welcoming space for all children and their caregivers.

Create a new literacy playground, including interactive, educational play structures that develop early literacy and numeracy.

Add programming to support caregivers and childhood reading. This will build on VPL’s existing workshops and collections which support parents and caregivers in their role as their children’s most important teachers. For example, Sensory Storytime is a program that includes sensory learning activities that are especially valuable for children with developmental disabilities, including autism.

The VPL says as-is, their Central Children’s Library is “operating at peak capacity.” More families are using the facility, thanks to shifting downtown demographics that exceed what the library anticipated based on 1995 usage when the central branch opened. Additionally, because local families are living in homes with less square footage, the public space for reading and play is in high demand; attendance at children’s programs has increased by over 200% since opening, says the VPL.

Further, the VPL wants to be more inclusive in its services and spaces, offering environments that better suit all learners and children, and their care providers and educators.

Considered the “most popular” area of the VPL’s central branch, the Children’s Library was a natural fit for the Dilwari Foundation’s donation. The philanthropic arm of Dilawri Group of Companies, Canada’s largest automotive group, has donated tens of millions of dollars to

Canadian health and children’s charities over the past 20 years.

“The Dilawri Foundation prioritizes the needs of the children in communities across Canada with programs that address their health and emotional well-being,” said Ajay Dilawri, one of three founders of The Dilawri Foundation along with his brothers Kap and Tony.

“Parents and caregivers of young children who are new to Vancouver, and those who have lived here for years, gravitate to the Vancouver Public Library for learning, support, a sense of belonging, and community connection. Our goal is to help build a library of the future to address these needs for generations to come.”

Construction for the Children’s Library expansion is set to begin in 2020.

Photo Credit: Vancouver is Awesome


Dilawri Foundation