Idea-Light-Blub-Paper-webThe issues, opportunities and concerns around the need (or not) for a new downtown public library in Guelph are extensive and complex.

Rather than trying to be comprehensive, the students in the Guelph Library Project identified a number of key themes which have emerged from their readings, visits, presentations, and discussions.

These themes will likely form the foundation of their report:

Theme: Citizen Alignment. Is the current plan for a more progressive, 21st century downtown library be supported by Guelph citizens? Does the plan align with user expectations?

Theme: Commercialization. The partnership model for the proposed library includes commercial or quasi-commercial partners. Will these partnerships result in the commercialization the Library?

Theme: Community Outreach. Is the Library adequately and effectively reaching out to the community to provide wanted services and to garner their support for a new facility?

Theme: The Building. The current building is in poor condition (cramped, dirty, leaks, maintenance issues, infrastructure concerns, etc.). Can it be renovated or is it beyond repair? What will happen if repairs or renovations are delayed in anticipation of a new facility? Does the state of the building compromise the functionality of the library and the wellbeing of its users.

Theme: Cost. Is the ~$90M estimate for a new downtown library appropriate and/or affordable?

Theme: Resources. While the library is well provisioned for books and other materials, it needs more technology. This means more than just computers; it needs other resources to enable users to use the library to create and collaborate (e.g. a makerspace).

Theme: City Priorities. While a new downtown library may be needed and wanted, does the city have other more important and immediate priorities (acknowledged by the citizens) which will preclude this?

Theme: Success. Many users are happy with the downtown branch and feel a central library is therefore unnecessary. The Guelph Public Library model is based on a set of satellite libraries not a “hub and spokes” model. If the current library is successful, why change it?

Theme: Accessibility. The downtown library is not accessibility to those with various types of disabilities. The lack of effective elevators, ramps, and washrooms (to identify just a few issues) creates barriers to for these people and limits their participation.

Theme: Community/User Space. The current facility lacks effective space for community gatherings, studying, collaboration, and other social space typically provided by public libraries.


What a Library Is (from Caitlin Moran)

Caitlin Moran
Caitlin Moran

“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen, instead.”

Is Re-Branding Worth It?

In a previous post we highlighted the new branding for the Guelph Public Library. A few days ago this editorial cartoon from Pierre Doré appeared in the Guelph Mercury:

619GPL 10OCTOBER2015

A few questions arise from the re-branding and this cartoon:

Was the $30K well spent? Do libraries need to re-brand to reflect their changing role?

Is buying books the priority for any funds the library might have?

Does the fact that it’s a librarian indicating concern suggest that the professional staff are not on-board with this new branding?

Does it also suggest that librarians think libraries are just about books?

It may be interesting to contrast the re-branding initiative at the Guelph Public Library with that being considered at the Seattle Public Library; an initiative that will cost $365,000! Some commentators are very upset.


** Many thanks to Pierre Doré for allowing us to post his cartoon. In recognition, a $50 donation has been made to the United Way of Guelph Wellington Dufferin.

Research Groups

The class selected groups to conduct research and hold interviews with the four priority groups they identified:

Politicians: Ryan, Jessica, Kyle, Sarah

Non-Users of the Library: Rohan, Ben, Jesse, Peter, Raphaela

Students (including Teens): Zakaria, Tejal, Gillian, Emily, Mohit

Other Chief Librarians: Emma S., Emma M., Yilin, Hamid

In addition, we decided to invite the Chair of the Guelph Public Library Board (Anne MacKay) and the Chair of the Friends of the Guelph Public Library (Virginia Gillham) to class. Hopefully they will be able to accommodate us.

The research and the interviews will occur over the next month. Summaries and observations will be posted on this site by the various groups.


New Branding!

The Guelph Library Library has released a new logo and branding …. and I’m impressed. The old logo and brand IMHO was very dated and spoke to only a traditional library mission. Not so the new one. Here are two versions:

New GPL Logo

New GPL LogoFrom the press release about the new branding:

“The tagline – Explore . Connect . Thrive – communicates an experience, a promise of all the library can be for its members. It invites the community to make use of the library’s resources as a hub for people to share their ideas as well as to connect with the outside world using the library’s technology. The new tagline reinforces the library’s commitment to provide the resources, services and leadership to help the community remain prosperous, resilient, and strong.”

And here’s a short video introduction:

Well done.


Guelph Library Project: Next Steps


Interviewer with microphoneThe #GuelphLibProject class has completed its initial research phase (scanning the literature, reviewing strategic plans, visiting the library, and hearing from Guelph Chief Librarian Steve Kraft and library expert Wendy Newman. The have posted their observations.

The majority of students were concerned about the state of the downtown library and favoured a new facility. However, almost of of them raised the issue of cost and whether Guelph citizens were truly supportive of the Library’s vision and plans.

The next phase is to identify people or groups the students need to talk with, determine the key questions and issues, and find the best ways to interact with them. The students identified four priority groups (each group has a set of draft questions and strategies to engage that group):

1. Politicians,  2. Non-Users of the Library, 3. Students (including Teens), and 4. Chief Librarians from Other Cities

and two other important groups (approaching these groups needs additional thought and planning):

5. Opinion Leaders and 6. Media

They formulated some initial questions and discussed ways to engage these individuals or groups.

A general question was identified that students might want to ask everyone:
When you hear the word “library”, what comes to mind?


And So We Begin….

The Guelph Library Project class has met twice now and the students are ready to start thinking about libraries and specifically about the new downtown public library.

Today I asked them:

“What was important to you about your hometown public library?”

The students are going to post short answers to this blog over the next few days [Update: here are their posts]

Some used their local library, others not so much. Some of their uses were similar, others quite different. With their posts we are building up a matrix of what libraries mean to them.

One perceptive student asked me:

“Is there an opinion about libraries and the new library that you would like us to agree with?”

The answer is NO!

This course is all about the student’s analysis and their recommendations. They will, I hope, be informed by the research and their interactions with the community. However, it is not about my ideas (biased though I may be).

I hope you enjoy the observations. And please join in the discussion at any time by commenting on the posts or using the hashtag #GuelphLibProject on social media.


The Guelph Library Project: An Introduction

Are public libraries relevant in the 21st century? How much do they matter and will communities pay for them? Does Guelph need or want a new downtown public library?

Let’s find out.

The Guelph Library Project explores the initiative pursued over many years (and still unresolved) to build a new public library in downtown Guelph.

Carnegie GPL Street Scene
The old Carnegie Library in Guelph

Attitudes have certainly changed.

In 2002 Monteith Planning Consultants asked if: “A new downtown Main Library should be a high priority in the City.” The results:

Library Users: 66% (agree or strongly agree)
Non-Library Users: 56% (agree or strongly agree)

Twelve years later in 2014, Forum Research asked: “Do you Support a New Main Library?” The results are very different:

Yes: 36%
No: 58%
Undecided: 6%

This project is also an integral part of a First Year Seminar course being taught at the University of Guelph. The research, interviews, and most of the postings on this site will be done by those students.

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie has posed the essential question:

“What is the future of libraries and how is it [the current plan for a new library] going to best fit into that future?”

Guelph Public Library
The current Guelph Public Library (Main Branch)

The course begins on Thursday September 10th and runs until Thursday December 3rd. You are encouraged to not just read about it but to actively participate by commenting on this site and using the hashtag #GuelphLibProject on Twitter and other social media.

…Mike (course instructor & librarian)