A New Public Library for Guelph?

For several years, a fundamental topic of debate has developed concerning the necessity of a new main library branch in Guelph. Opinions differ in regard to the urgency of this project, ranging from outright support, to indifference, or absolute opposition. Through the numerous articles which explore the practicality of these twenty-first century institutions, specifically the Guelph Public Library strategic plan, notions contributed by relevant figures such as Steve Kraft, the current CEO of the library, or Wendy Newman, a notoriously influential advocate for libraries, in addition to the tour of the downtown Guelph Public Library, sufficient information was accumulated that lead to the reinforcement of my own perspective on the prevailing matter.

To be able to truly resolve if Guelph should build a new downtown library or not, we must firstly determine certain key questions that will help settle this ongoing disagreement. The most pressing point at issue undoubtedly remains whether the community indeed desires and requires this change to take effect. Furthermore, it is imperative to interpret the true value of a library in our increasingly digital world, as well as the opportunities and threats this technological advancement can prompt. In order to clarify these issues, we can refer to the state of the city’s present downtown library. Owing to our tour of the establishment, I am able to judge the community’s uncompromising exigency for the accomplishment of this project. Although the library does include many innovative services that are deemed beneficial to its users, such as self-checkout stations, a tech bar comprised of a 3D printer and Kobo eReaders, and a children and teen’s section encompassing a public video game console, a corner for socializing, and a program room in which varied activities aimed at the younger demographic unfold, the overall space provided is simply not suitable to serve its citizens. The floors that hold the library’s material are cluttered and cramped, and the size of the building is inadequate for a city the size of Guelph. Another major concern is the fact that the structure does not meet modern accessibility standards, which is evident through the one non-accessible elevator and the washrooms located on the third floor. On a different note, as rendered evident by Wendy Newman, when debating the topic of a new downtown branch for Guelph, it is crucial to establish a distinct balance between physical and digital libraries in order to clarify the importance of these public establishments as cultural and community offerings in our technologically ordered lives.

The reason a new library has not yet been built when the need for one is so apparently discernable is therefore unsettled, but a significant justification to this complex controversy can be proposed: cost. The predicted budget for this project resides at a monumental price of ninety million dollars. With a cost that steep, we can understand the reason it can be so challenging to advocate for a new library and achieve the support of the public.

However, hopefully the residents and officials of Guelph can come to be persuaded of the colossal importance of a new public library just as I have been after thorough analysis of the evidence provided in regard to the inadequacy of the current institution, along with Guelph Public Library’s strategic plan which intends to provoke considerable comprehensive advancements in the community. A library should be a free community space where residents of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds can visit and enjoy spending their time, where people can go to collect information on a broad range of topics, get help applying for jobs, or take home physical or digital materials at essentially no cost, and that can be depended on, day after day, to attract people downtown, and the Guelph Library Project intends to make this conceivable.

– Sarah Ruest

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