The debate surrounding a new library branch for our city has been raging on for months now. This past week, the library project was put on hold, as a petition with 6,700 signatures – opposed to the bylaw, which would allow the city to borrow $21.9 million – was presented to city council.
When looking at this issue democratically, it is reasonable that citizens would like their voices to be heard, (especially in regards to their tax dollars) and therefore, for the city to hold a vote in such circumstances.
That being said: I am in full support of the new library branch, and would urge my fellow citizens to see the true necessity of this project.
As Gazette reporter Scott Hayes wrote recently, the St. Albert Public Library offers vital and varied resources for people young and old. Programs for “literacy, life skills, programming, coffee, and more.” While these programs are extremely important, perhaps the most important aspect the library offers is that of community building. The various programs offer a chance for people to meet and engage with one another in ways that are unparalleled to other community resources.
The library has been over capacity in our growing city for 18 years. While some have suggested the use of existing buildings, rather than building a new branch; it is not only space for books that is needed, but also specific space to be utilized for specific programs.
I am particularly passionate about one library program that would be allowed to further flourish, if given new space: the Summer Reading Game. I was a volunteer through this program for three summers. Seeing hundreds of children become excited about reading was an incredible experience. Many of them undoubtedly increased their reading levels over the summer, in a period when many children experience a drop in their reading levels.
Former Summer Reading Game employee Caralyn Ludwig said, in support of a new branch: “The library is a free public service that benefits the entire city. It inspires kids to read, educates people of all ages, and enriches lives, all within a space it outgrew 18 years ago. Just imagine what it could do with the extra space it so desperately needs. What better investment could we make in our growing community? “
An important facility in our community, Servus Place, underwent an expansion in 2013 which cost the city $29 million. The difference between these two facilities? The library is a free public service. Servus Place, and other similar services in our community, require users to pay fees for usage of the facility and its programs.
Libraries offer vital, free resources for our community, and the reality is, they cannot continue to the extent that our citizens deserve without a new branch.
Jennifer Hamilton is a local student and writer.