Most residents have a soft spot for our library. Some because they use it regularly, others just love the building and its history. I can imagine any move to change it could be met with opposition. I am reminded of an occasion when my husband and business partner was conducting a public meeting to discuss consolidation of rural libraries north of Kingston Ontario. Emilie – at the time about 12 – had gone to the meeting with her Dad. There were protesters at the back of the room with placards and some making more signs. The sound of the staple gun was apparently so loud that at one point Emilie thought her Dad was being shot – so much for take your child to work day! Such is the passion with which many people hold their traditional libraries.
Libraries have been in Canada for well over 200 years, although as public libraries – perhaps half that time. They began as places to encourage adult literacy, and in later generations to encourage children’s reading skills and socialization. For many they are a source of free recreational reading material and in recent decades, recreational audio and visual materials. In my past they were a source of academic materials, but I suspect the advent of the internet results in far fewer youth heading to the library to do their homework.
So is the library as we have known it a thing of the past? In my view, and I know this will not be popular with those who continue to use our current library, YES. Should we gradually eliminate our libraries – let them die a natural death? To that I would say NO – but absolutely they need to change. Advances in digital media and technology, demographic changes, financial constraints, and needs of today’s economic and creative opportunities, combine to encourage us – no require us – to envision a new form of library.
As much as many love the old train station (a designated heritage building), the library staff, and for those who are regular users, the programs; it is too limited in space and programming to contribute in the manner a modern library could.
On the plus side – our library has high usage statistics. Residents of Wolfville and the surrounding Kings County regions do use the existing library. But it could be so much more. It could be an integral contributor to the development of our unique regional economy – a creative and culinary economy. Further, and importantly, a true partnership with Acadia around this space could make it a major contributor to social, economic, community growth in our region.
During the spring – likely in May – Council will receive and discuss a library needs assessment presented by the Annapolis Valley Regional Library Board. A 2015 assessment of recreation and library needs for the Town of Wolfville took a preliminary look at the library needs and so it will come as no surprise if the pending report also identifies the need for a change in both building and programming.
What options might we consider – expansion on the existing site, a new site in Town or elsewhere? We are a long way from those decisions. They will not be made easily or quickly. They will require and benefit from broad community engagement. I look forward to those discussions – how about you?