Party leaders should support downtown library project, says Pat Bates.
Deficiencies and inadequacies in the existing 57-year-old McConnell Library need to be addressed
I am using this platform to communicate with the leaders of Nova Scotia’s three major political parties – Stephen McNeil (Liberal), Jamie Baillie (Progressive Conservative) and Gary Burrill (New Democratic Party) – seeking to form the new government after the May 30 provincial election.
I chair a 12-member citizens’ committee advocating for and working to establish a new library building, hence strengthening and, by necessity, upgrading the 12-unit library system in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) and Victoria County.
The project was initiated in 2009 by the late Dr. Robert Morgan, former professor in the History Department at Cape Breton University. Morgan, an educator and author in his own right, was concerned with the deficiencies and inadequacies in the existing 57-year-old McConnell Library premises in downtown Sydney. This facility serves as core resource provider for the 12 community libraries and two bookmobile units in CBRM and Victoria County.
Members of the committee, in addition to library management personnel, municipal politicians and CBRM officials, have expended considerable effort to meet the growing demands for expanding traditional services to include elements of digitization, new and innovative technologies, and opportunities for learning and support for culture.
Two reports on the library project were completed by consultants in November 2011 and again in December 2015, each endorsing the need for an expanded and modernized library system for the Cape Breton Regional Library.
In addition, the Composite Learning Index (CLI) in 2010 has identified low literacy rates in CBRM. The Canadian Council on Learning and OECD have published “Reading the Future: Planning to Meet Canada’s Future Literacy Needs,” a compendium on the need for emphasis on literacy to improve our community’s economic growth prospects. (See online at http:// www.en.copian.ca/library/ research/ccl/future/future. pdf). Consider, as well, that the Economist featured a special report on lifelong learning in its Jan. 14, 2017, edition.
A recent check on applications to our community college system indicates deficiencies in high school attainment essential for admission to needed skills training. The message is clear, especially in Cape Breton: with consistently above-average rates of unemployment, a modern and a well-equipped library is essential.
Nova Scotia, to its credit, has taken some action over the past five years in library renewal. For example, new construction and upgrades to existing buildings have been supported and have taken place in Antigonish, Halifax and Truro and currently are planned in Pictou. Improvements in libraries for other communities also have been made.
We are encouraged by the current discussion surrounding relocation of a Nova Scotia Community College campus to the downtown in a complex housing a new CBRM Sydney library facility, but are mindful that we currently are in provincial election mode.
The objective of this communication is as follows: As chairman, and on behalf of the New Central Library Building Committee, and with due respect, I am asking each of you, as provincial party leaders, to familiarize yourselves with the importance of this project and, if elected, to carry through on this vital initiative.
It needs to be said that the Federal Member of Parliament for this area has indicated he will consider/support a request or “ask” from CBRM authorities for financial assistance to construct a new library facility. All requests for and to CBRM are important, but none more important than our commitment to literacy and education in support of economic growth and quality of life.
“New (library) construction and upgrades have been supported and have taken place in Antigonish, Halifax and Truro and currently are planned in Pictou.”