February 15, 2018: A City That Fosters Innovation?;
Long-term strategy needed for Libraries.
By Blaine Marchand, R.E.A.D.
The City’s budget was very much in the news in November and December of 2017 due to criticism of the Council’s obsession with keeping taxes low at all costs. This debate was partially sparked by projected underspending for snow removal this winter and the lack of funds for infrastructure. The issue was suddenly resolved when an additional $10 million materialized on the day the budget was voted on. But it is more than snow removal that is impacted by an artificially low tax rate. Over the years, it has obstructed the maintenance of public and social services, such as libraries.
Ottawa is touted as a centre of innovation, which fosters creativity and imagination, where people learn and exchange new ideas via modern technology. On paper, the city cites libraries as integral to our vibrant community, the heart of each diverse neighbourhood making up our rapidly growing municipality. Libraries are acknowledged in city documents as hubs for information, as safe and inviting focal points for different cultural groups, as fostering greater tolerance through knowledge and understanding.
Across the city, urban neighbourhoods are intensifying – condos are rising around transit stations, streetscapes are seeing multi-family units replace single family homes. More people in these areas place greater demand on infrastructure, including their local libraries.
The Rosemount Expansion and Development (READ) Group has pressed the city on the need for a new library in our community. READ also believes that the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) board needs to position itself strategically and advocate for quality library services across Ottawa.
A comprehensive long-term capital plan that would fund and initiate a blueprint for library renewals and new construction is now more critical than ever. This would allow City Council to ensure that there is sufficient long-range and more predictable funding for the library system. Currently, the OPL relies on a complex array of funding sources. And those sources are not always certain.
Libraries are places where everyone – young and old, well-heeled and the socially and physically challenged and all in between – goes. They are places of inspiration and creativity, where reading opens up the world to all and accessible computers bring the worldwide web of information to one’s fingertips.
The Rosemount Library, despite being a priority on the OPL list for years, is now slated to receive a mere face-lift to make cosmetic improvements and provide band-aid solutions to a building in its 100th year. That is not acceptable and why READ supports a comprehensive long-term funding strategy for the renewal of existing libraries and the development of new branches.
Next month’s article will discuss the strategies being implemented in other Canadian cities and show how they have successfully built and redeveloped the libraries in their neighbourhoods.