Real eco­nomic boost is within reach for CBRM

Mod­ern­ized and tech­no­log­i­cally up-to-date li­brary a key fea­ture in re­vi­tal­iza­tion

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL - Pat Bates Pat Bates worked with the Irv­ing group of com­pa­nies and the fed­eral civil ser­vice in in­dus­try and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment dur­ing his 37-year ca­reer. His col­umn nor­mally ap­pears ev­ery sec­ond Mon­day in the Cape Bre­ton Post. He can be con­tacted at pat

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!

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