Guelph’s Potential New Downtown Library

A new library is always nice. Sometimes they are built as an upgrade of their predecessors and sometimes they are a necessity. As for the future of Guelph’s new downtown library, much is still up to debate. The current library, although old and outdated – having an elevator from around 1965 – still seems to get the job done. On a daily basis, many people flock to the facility, and based on google reviews, averaging at 4.7 stars out of 5 as of October 6th, 2015, many seem to be pleased. Even when it comes to the number of items signed out, Guelph Public Library’s stats are impressive. In fact, when compared to many of the libraries in Toronto – yes, even those in Downtown – Guelph Public Library comes on top when it comes to the number of item borrowed per month – enough that approximately 20 items could be signed out by each individual in Guelph – as mentioned by Dan Atkins, the Director of Operations at GPL. However, even though successful in its own way, some might say that building a new public library is a necessity. During our tour of the library, it was easily noticeable that the library needed many changes. There was hardly any space, even staff seemed to find it an annoyance. The building, being from the mid-20th century, did seem to need upgrades to facilitate many of today’s modern needs ranging from disability accessibility to electrical. However, building a new library never comes cheap, and with Steve Kraft’s current vision, a possible 90 million dollars and 10 years of construction may be a little hard to fathom, especially by those financially backing up the idea. However, the idea does have its pros along with some cons and could possibly be a new treasure for the city of Guelph.

Now, why might one want a new public library in Guelph? Well, according to Wendy Newman, a former president of the Canadian Library Association and the Canadian Association of Public Libraries, libraries are have been and are going to continue to progress into a more community oriented facility where people can do more rather than simply sign out an item. In other words, new libraries should not just be facilities where people borrow items and return them, instead, there should be workshops, community events, places where people can work together, interact, and much more. The current Guelph Public Library, even though being community oriented and inviting, lacks the ability for people of the community to do things due to limited space and accessibility issues. Even though the library has great stats when it comes to borrowed items, it does not seem to have any other noticeable wow factor. Currently the people of Guelph seem to be happy with the library as is, but as time progresses and other libraries evolve, what will become of Guelph’s treasured library?

This is not the only reason why a new library would be beneficial. The current idea of a new downtown library – according to Steve Kraft – would contain a things such as a conference room, sound studios, student study space, ebooks, enhanced services including electronic services, more space, accessibility, and much more. However, the library’s involvement with other establishments is what seems to make the idea truly interesting. By joining the library to condos, the library would generate a constant flow of revenue. Also, the fact that the library is placed in downtown Guelph, a commercial area, would potentially bring in more people, increasing the number of people visiting local businesses, thus improving the economic stability of the city.

As for the cons, the cost of building the new library does seem steep and would require a lot more money than the current branch is worth – approximately 10 million as mentioned by Steve Kraft. Also, building a new library takes time, almost 10 years. Where would the money come from to support the project for that long? Would the current branch stay open while the new one would be under construction or would the current one be sold? Currently, financial partners have been established, but with one backing out once only to return, would these partners stay? It’s hard to say whether the future of the building of the Guelph Public Library would be successful at this rate, possibly the reason as to why the plan has been in the midst for the past 15-20 as mentioned by Steve Kraft.

When considering all of these facts. It’s hard to say if the new downtown library could be built, but should it? In my opinion, yes. I agree fully with Wendy Newman and believe that a new downtown library is a great idea. Although risky, a new library would not only provide many services to the city which would eventually become a near necessity as other libraries evolve with time while the current library in Guelph lags behind, but it would also help the city’s economy. Also, the current library, being as old as it is, being inaccessible and non-flexible, I believe that it denies the people of this city their right to a proper community space. Therefore, I believe the new downtown Guelph Public Library should be built.




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