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Library makes pitch for more space

Postcard campaign aimed at drumming up public support

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Oct 09, 2013 06:00 am

LIBRARY MEETING – A gathering comprised mostly of city council candidates meets to hear options for the expansion of the library of  the St. Albert Public Library on Monday night.
LIBRARY MEETING – A gathering comprised mostly of city council candidates meets to hear options for the expansion of the library of the St. Albert Public Library on Monday night.
BRYAN YOUNG/St. Albert Gazette

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The St. Albert Public Library Board is asking its members and the community for support over growing space concerns by signing vintage-style postcards.

At a public meeting Monday evening, library director Peter Bailey said the board had considered options to secure more space for a number of years.

With the 2013 election approaching, the board has now decided to make council and mayoral candidates aware of their concerns. As library members fill out the postcards with suggestions for improvements, each candidate receives a copy of that card in their mail.

“It takes a village to raise a library. Thirty years ago St. Albertans got together and they built a fabulous library in St. Albert Place,” Bailey said. ”I think we can do it again so let’s talk about it.”

Bailey spent some time at the meeting showing a group of council candidates, library members and members of Friends of St. Albert Public Library, pictures of other libraries across Canada and the world located in communities similar to St. Albert. Many of these libraries serve as public meeting places, art galleries or museums, he said.

He stressed that libraries are places to gather, not only to read books but bring a community together. Due to limited space concerns, St. Albert Public Library now struggles to fulfil this need.

“What St. Albert Place does is it encourages community gathering. It’s a place for sharing stories … other things like political forums and our STARfest, our readers’ festival,” he said. “You can see it’s people, people are what make the modern library.”

One of the vintage postcards available at the library shows a young soldier carrying a stack of books. He says he is helping to remove 26,500 books for the library because they need more space.

Built to house 100,000 books, the library now carries 179,000 and is forced to throw one book out as another one arrives. The 26,500 books the soldier carries were removed in 2012.

Another postcard depicts a red, antique car driving through a winter scene with people standing on the side of the road. “I hope the parking lot’s not full again when I get to the Library,” the driver says.

Based on statistics of a 2002 feasibility study, the library was originally designed to serve a maximum of 50,000 people. Today, it serves 61,000 people.

Other postcards address the oversubscribed children’s and tech training programs and the lack of public meeting space. The library offers one training room which board members said is too small and crowded to support all of the library’s programs.

It’s primary meeting room, Forsyth Hall, can only hold 100 people. Bigger events have to be booked somewhere else and the library is unable to provide space for community groups. Staff members also struggle with a lack of office space.

Options for an expansion

Library architect Vivian Manasc spent some time at the meeting discussing possible options for an expansion of the library – including creating a branch site, adding space to the existing building or moving some of the city staff out to create more library space.

Asking attendees to weigh in on their preferences, many said they would prefer keeping the library in its central location – despite concerns over available parking spaces – rather than moving some or all of the library to the outskirts of the city where it would be less accessible.

“The heart of the community needs to keep beating,” said one attendee, while another added that the library was vital to the well being of the downtown area.

Manasc said the library will soon update its feasibility study to determine possible options and costs for an expansion. The original study from 2002 said the library needed 53,000 square feet to serve a community of 100,000 people.

At this time, Bailey said the library has 25,000 square feet available but needs about 30,000 square feet to properly service St. Albert residents. The library board is hoping to add at least 10,000 square feet of building space, he said.

Residents who wish to write their suggestions for library improvements on a postcard can do so at the library. Those who prefer to share their thoughts online can use the library’s website to send a message.


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