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The Guelph Library Project Report (Draft Introduction)

The Guelph Library Project
Final Report (draft)

Benjamin Field, Emily Goldberg, Emma MacDonald, Emma Snow, Gillian Conley, Hamid Dwyer, Jesse Wiemer, Jessica Kool, Kyle Hayes, Mohit Sekhon, Peter Andreakos, Raphaela Simoes, Rohan Verma, Ryan Medwid, Sarah Ruest, Tejal Patel, Yilin Yao and Zakaria Ali.

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Introduction and Context

from Michael Ridley, Instructor, Guelph Library Project Course

The Guelph Library Project is part of a First Year Seminar course held at the University of Guelph during the Fall 2015 semester. The objective of the course is to examine the question:

Does Guelph need a new downtown public library?

Through a variety research techniques (key documents and reports, presentations from experts, interviews with opinion leaders and citizens, surveys, focus groups, and class discussions) the students (all in their 1st year) developed an understanding of the issues and prepared a set of observations and recommendations. This report is the result of their work.

Guelph has been talking about a new downtown public library for nearly 20 years. Sometimes it seems imminent and at other times it seems very unlikely.

Why the long debate?
Why the uncertainty about a decision?
Do we really need a new library?

The Guelph Public Library’s Mission, Vision, Values, and Customer Service Pledge describe how the Library understands its role and the value it brings to the community. In part, the Project wanted to test these statements and assumptions against the views and opinions of those in Guelph and those leading libraries in other jurisdictions.

Cam Guthrie, Mayor, City of Guelph
Cam Guthrie, Mayor, City of Guelph

Perhaps the most significant impetus for the course and the project was the statement by Mayor Cam Guthrie on February 16 of this year:

“You already have five different [branch library] locations in the city, you have a huge library at the University of Guelph, pretty much every public school in town has libraries. I just think that before the city commits to any huge costs associated with a new library, this really heartfelt discussion needs to happen about what is the future of libraries and how is it going to best fit into that future.”

The Guelph Library Project agreed with the Mayor. Libraries are expensive, there are other libraries in the city, and libraries are changing, dramatically. The Project wanted to nurture that “heartfelt discussion” the Mayor called for so that the members of the Guelph community can identify “the best fit” whatever that might be.

What the Project discovered tells us a lot about libraries and about the Guelph community.

Disclaimer: As the instructor for the course, and a librarian, I have an obvious bias. It is a testament to the critical perspectives and independence of the students that they recognized this bias and attempted to minimize it throughout the course proceedings.

Report Table of Contents
(sections forthcoming)

1. Libraries and Community Development
2. Observations and Themes
3. Four Scenarios for the Library
4. Recommendations

Acknowledgements

The Guelph Library Project team wants to thank those who were so generous with their time and ideas: Steve Kraft (CEO, Guelph Public Library), Guelph Public Library Board, Karen Farbridge (former Guelph Mayor), Cam Guthrie (Guelph Mayor), Dan Gibson (Ward 1 Counselor), Asa Kachan (CEO, Halifax Public Library), Helen Kelly (CEO, Idea Exchange), Wendy Newman (University of Toronto), Virginia Gillham (Friends of the Guelph Public Library) and Dan Atkins (Director of Operations, Guelph Public Library).

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