What pub­lic li­braries could and should be

Northern Pen - - EDITORIAL -

The stars align­ing this week drove me to write this let­ter. It is a topic that I have waxed on about be­fore, but this time, calamity in the cos­mos com­pels me. It has knocked down my door.

I spent a few hours in the Hal­i­fax Pub­lic Li­brary last week. I was moved by its de­sign and the en­ergy that it quite ap­par­ently re­turned to the grid of com­mu­nity con­scious­ness. Awe, but then de­pres­sion. Our lead­ers have not seen fit to em­bark upon such no­ble pur­suits. Their collective agenda lies else­where. Li­braries do not mat­ter. If a sin­gle one of our pub­lic lead­ers dis­putes my claim, I chal­lenge them to re­spond to this let­ter and re­veal to the pub­lic their per­sonal ef­forts on this front. We await your voice.

Speak­ing of which, I lis­tened to CBC Ra­dio’s “At­lantic Voice” last week. Angela An­tle in­ter­viewed the CEO of the Hal­i­fax Pub­lic Li­brary. For the politi­cians out there who are say­ing, “Why would this make for in­ter­est­ing air­play?” I ask them to set aside 26 min­utes and 10 sec­onds of their all-too-busy agen­das to lis­ten to this in­ter­view. Please takes notes. As might be ex­pected within a li­brary con­text, you may learn some­thing of value. It’s avail­able as a we­b­cast. Not that all of our so­ci­ety would have ac­cess to we­b­cast tech­nol­ogy. It would if we had a proper li­brary in the down­town, but don’t let that stop you.

In ad­di­tion, the EY Re­port on our pro­vin­cial li­brary sit­u­a­tion also blos­somed, but has yet to bring forth much in the way of fruit. That shriv­elled seed was first planted back in Oc­to­ber of last year when many par­tic­i­pants could not get into the venue. The li­brary space was too small. And not a politi­cian to be found. Ruth Lawrence cap­tured the gen­eral sen­ti­ment: “It’s a national dis­grace!”

Two-hun­dred-and-fifty-thou­sand dol­lars later, the re­port says that we should have a li­brary strat­egy. Bril­liant. It goes on to list 10 other rec­om­men­da­tions that talk about ser­vice de­liv­ery mod­els, re­cruit­ing li­brar­i­ans, re­duc­ing gov­er­nance, roadmaps, etc. (By the way, these days you need a roadmap to get any­where.)

Here’s my rec­om­men­da­tion (ab­sent from the EY re­port): we should elect politi­cians that sup­port li­braries. Those that don’t — fire their ar­ses. Too di­rect for EY? That’s un­der­stand­able.

A Toronto Li­braries re­port in­di­cated that for ev­ery dol­lar spent on li­braries, five were gen­er­ated in the lo­cal econ­omy. The Amer­i­can Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion says that work­force devel­op­ment is im­proved through ac­cess to classes and ed­u­ca­tional re­sources. The global li­brary co-op­er­a­tive, the On­line Com­puter Li­brary Cen­ter, states that li­braries pro­vide job-seek­ing help and ca­reer as­sis­tance. They act as a re­source for small busi­ness. They of­fer free Wi-fi ac­cess, tech­nol­ogy train­ing, meet­ing venues and cre­ative space.

My own ob­ser­va­tions in Hal­i­fax fur­ther sug­gest that a down­town li­brary is a des­ti­na­tion hub, en­cour­ag­ing the use of pub­lic trans­porta­tion and driv­ing up real es­tate value, and there­fore devel­op­ment, in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity. Fi­nally, the li­brary has stripped away all phys­i­cal and so­cio-eco­nomic bar­ri­ers. It is a model for all those who be­lieve we must do more to be­come a truly in­clu­sion­ary so­ci­ety.

Jim Case

St. John’s

Fel­low of the Royal Ar­chi­tec­tural In­sti­tute of Canada

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.