The proposed branch library seems like a thorn in the side of a few St. Albert residents and is becoming a lightning rod in the forthcoming municipal election.
In my opinion libraries are an important component of a healthy, vibrant and progressive community. Faced with ever-increasing competition for city finances and rapidly expanding technological advancement it is appropriate to ask the question “Should we as a community support the expansion of our public library?” But it is precisely those budgetary issues and the onslaught of technology that makes libraries more important than ever.
Libraries are much more than a place to borrow books. More than just information, more than books on shelves, more than a row of computers.
Libraries serve a number of important and valuable functions. Libraries build a community and support local culture.
Strengthening St. Albert communities and championing the cultural life of the city are the responsibility of city council, just as much as managing our tax dollars diligently.
Those who think that libraries are becoming obsolete in this digital age do not know what our library does. Libraries build citizens and foster thoughtful communities. The proposed branch library can become the hub of a vibrant neighbourhood. The library is the archives preserving the history of St. Albert including its rich native heritage and minority groups. The library is a place people may go for information but they find much more. New moms connect at story time with other new moms, senior citizens attend events and make new friends and discuss current events. In the library, connections are happening all the time. Our library can champion and promote important democratic values and be a part of the city’s political life.
The library can provide immigrants and refugees from war-torn parts of the world, who chose to make St. Albert their new home, information, resources and opportunity to connect with their new community.
Having said all the above, in view of increasing competition for funding of public services our new council must explore all alternative sources funding of our public library. Yes we will need more ice surfaces, yes we need a new pool. As the city grows, we will need all of that but as we set our priorities we cannot neglect the cultural life of the city. If we do, St. Albert will not be one of the most desirable cities in Canada to live in and raise our families.
Provincial and federal government grants are not the only options, although the Library and Archive Canada announced support for new library projects. The Alberta government also provides funding to improve access and services at public libraries. While these grants are not designed to support construction, they can help with operating costs and specific new projects the library undertakes. A few other potential funding opportunities worthy of exploration include service clubs, such as the Kiwanis Club, Lions Club, Rotary Club; or The Chamber of Commerce, partnering with St. Albert businesses.
So Dear St. Albert voters, this October let’s elect a mayor and council that values our library and is committed to exploring all alternate sources of financial support for the proposed branch library.
Joseph F. Selann, St. Albert