Do I support a new library? The question is not simple and it is not black and white. Anyone who has a yes or no answer is doing a disservice to the residents of St. Albert because this is complicated.
St. Albertans have to opportunity to express their opinion on whether to pursue building a library, aquatics and additional ice surfaces during the upcoming election. All are needed in the future and are competing for scarce municipal dollars. Overwhelming for or against results will provide the next council with a clear path, but my concern is that the path will not be so clear, that our community will come out looking to further pursue one, two or possibly all three projects and we need a mayor and council capable of coming up with non-traditional solutions. I would love to see our library branch attached to the next and much needed high school. We also need to build a new fire hall in the next few years so why not build the two together and find synergies in land, parking, and operations. Or why not partnering with some of the needed sports and recreation facilities?
Do I believe the library needs more space? YES! Our current library opened its doors in 1983 when our population was ~30,000 And was designed to meet our community needs until we grew to 50,000 which was 17 years ago.
Since then we have had an 85% increase in population, over 200% increase in the collection and 100% increase in program participants. Personally I am a huge supporter of literacy, youth programming and all that our award winning library has to offer. But as a Mayor, I will need to balance my personal opinion with what I hear from residents, both on the ballot and also from the thousands of doors I will knock over the campaign.
There have been many studies done on both the need and possible solutions for our library space needs. I have read them all. We have explored expanding within St. Albert Place but determined that was not feasible as it would just require leasing or building space for city staff. We have explored leasing space, but determined that over the long run this will cost our city much more. What we haven’t studied is this concept of a multipurpose building. And I want to open up the conversation with our regional neighbours who also use our facilities and ask for their assistance.
I have heard many voices wanting to build, but build without killing our pocket books. This is my goal.