Group calls for new or improved library
Officials estimate 450-500 people come through McConnell Library on average day
SYDNEY — A grassroots group of local residents says the Cape Breton Regional Municipality needs either a new central library or a makeover of the existing McConnell Library building.
Ronald Caplan, publisher of Breton Books and a member of the residents’ committee, said Tuesday at this stage, the residents hope to start the conversation in Cape Breton about the need for a new or renovated library.
“Maybe our goal is to make this our kitchen talk for people across the island to realize here is another essential problem we have to solve and all of the input both in support and ideas we can get from our neighbours is really what we are looking for at this moment.
“ We haven’t gone to anyone in terms of getting money. We just want to be sure the problem is understood, that it is a problem to be solved and if we don’t start now, it will be a problem years from now.”
Following a tour of the McConnell which was built in 1959, the group also said in a letter to the municipality that locations for a new library in the downtown core of Sydney should be studied and plans should be drawn up by an architect working with the library board for either a new building or the renovation project.
Halifax is getting a new $55-million replacement for its downtown central library. Antigonish is set to open a new $5-million library complex in November.
Library officials estimate that on an average day between 450 and 500 people come through the doors at McConnell Library and that the Sydney area has close to 13,000 active library users.
Libraries are offering more services now, including access to computers, Caplan said.
“ You know, the call for what people want a library for has grown and grown but the facility, the building, has not.”
McConnell Library has seven computers while the new Halifax library will have 248 computers, the letter noted.
A large number of books are kept in the basement of the McConnell Library some of which could be on display in a larger building, said Caplan.
Librarians have to lug books back and forth from the basement, he said. “They need an elevator. They need it for themselves, they need it to be respectful to people with disabilities.”
The McConnell lacks an airconditioning system for the comfort of readers and of staff and for the preservation of the collection of rare Cape Breton and Nova Scotia books in the Nova Scotia Room, he said.
The grassroots committee also includes historian Robert Morgan, Coun. Claire Detheridge, businessman Kirk McRae, Ronald Rooth of the Cape Breton University library, community representatives Lynn Rudderham and Diana Schwartz and Rosalie Gillis, of the library staff, while regional librarian Faye MacDougall is serving as an adviser.