The 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.