Real economic boost is within reach for CBRM
Modernized and technologically up-to-date library a key feature in revitalization
This column often speaks to economic development and social policy issues. The push for a new library in downtown Sydney falls under this umbrella.
Libraries are vital to the economic and social development of any community. Skeptical? I challenge you to visit the McConnell Memorial Library, take a tour, ask for a Statistics Portfolio, and request a free copy of the Library’s four-page Operations Overview Fact Sheet.
The McConnell library, built in 1959 and enlarged in 1981, has served the City of Sydney and associate community libraries well over the past 54 years. However, structural age, growing community needs and modern technology tell us squarely that we already have fallen behind.
In fact, the late Dr. Bob Morgan spoke of the need to bring our community library up to modern standards as early as 2008. We cannot go on squeezing every last ounce of utility out of undersized premises.
Recently, new library facilities have opened in Halifax and Antigonish. As well, the town of Truro has acquired the spacious former Nova Scotia Teachers College building which it is retrofitting into a modern new library.
The genuine need to move into the new generation of community libraries often is distorted by the age-old notion that libraries only loan books, period. Loaning books undoubtedly will remain a bedrock of a functioning library. But just as social media has surfaced and is flourishing, libraries must re-invent themselves or fail in their ability to be relevant in their communities.
Provincial and local governments should lead the way in endorsing the value of modernized, technologically up-to-date libraries.
For example, an April 2005 report released by the Saskatchewan Learning Provincial Library, states: ‘Libraries serve more people’s information and learning needs than any other Saskatchewan public institution.’ Further, the report indicated that “[b]y helping to attract new businesses and residents, modern library facilities can have a direct impact on increased tax-dollars and local economic renewal.”
Further to this point, see the very extensive examination and analysis of libraries undertaken by the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in a November 2007 Report entitled ‘ The Economic Impact of Libraries in Indiana.’
This study focused on three general questions:
* What are the measurable economic benefits of public and academic (university and college) libraries?
* How well are libraries doing in playing an active role in economic development?
* How can Indiana libraries take a more active role in economic development and business growth?
In conclusion, the study found that “Indiana’s public libraries are a good value.” However, “[i]n order to assume a more vital role in economic and business development, libraries need to bolster their business resources and strengthen their outreach to the business community.”
Two significant announcements were made within the past six weeks focusing on possible new developments for Sydney’s downtown core.
On June 3, Mayor Cecil Clark announced a CBRM prospective development to locate all or part of the Marconi Campus, together with a series of Nova Scotia government offices and a new library, on the waterfront or in the city core area.
On July 8, Martin Chernin announced plans for a $10-million eight-storey, mixed-purpose development on the Esplanade.
Chernin had expressed interest in building or providing new library space three years ago and has recently repeated that expression of interest to CBRM officials and to the new library committee. Both the CBRM and Chernin projects require various approvals in order to commence.
The announcements by CBRM and by Chernin are positive and, in combination, can be a magnificent boost to the CBRM core and the broader community. On a jointly-phased basis, Chernin’s Phase I could be more shovelready, and integration of the library component could very well ease pressure on CBRM in securing approvals from senior levels of government for Phase II.
In any event, good collaboration could move the entire enterprise forward expeditiously. A real economic boost is within reach, and a new library is a key feature of the go-forward plans!