March 15, 2018: Rosemount Library Renovation;
Faulty Assessment Leads to Wrong Decision.
By Blaine Marchand, R.E.A.D.
Increasingly in Ottawa, community consultation seems to be tokenism – architectural plans are presented and comments noted. But often when push comes to shove, the finished product is a far cry from what was shown and doesn’t reflect the input received. There are many examples of this… the Lansdowne development, and closer to home the former Visitation convent. Rosemount Branch library is another case in point.
Despite community input in 2016 that recommended a new facility located close to the current site, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) board hired a consultant to evaluate possible renovation and new-build options for Rosemount. At no time was community input sought in the development of the scope of the business case. Rather, a hard financial budget was pre-set, which effectively eliminated any consideration of expansion or a new building. Was the real intent to ensure the only possible conclusion would be a superficial renovation of the branch?
In spite of the views of the community, expressed in extensive public consultations, the consultant’s report did not assess the benefits of an expanded Rosemount library. The Rosemount Expansion and Development (READ) group has stressed the need for a library that responds to 21st century needs. The READ group believes the report ignored the fact that Rosemount has the highest circulation per capita of ALL branches. READ believes the consultant’s report relied on faulty or misleading data in its analysis of Rosemount’s overuse and user needs, including allocating half the space at Carlingwood, more than 7km away, to the Rosemount catchment area.
The OPL’s proposed $2 million renovation will not expand the space at Rosemount and will result in the closure of the branch for a significant amount of time. The OPL has said that community consultation will take place prior to the closure, but no timeline has been provided. Closure could be as early as autumn 2018.
A related issue is how the city budgets for new and renovated libraries, which in READ’s view, is deeply flawed. Consider two other cities. The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) has created a library system that is responsive to the needs of both urban and suburban neighbourhoods. Edmonton has a 10-year capital plan for its libraries and budgets accordingly. The budget covers a four-year period but permits the EPL to come back twice a year to City Council for necessary adjustments. The EPL Board approves the project priorities but City Council approves any city funding for the projects.
Winnipeg’s city council approved funding of a 2013-2023 long-term Library Facility Redevelopment Strategy to rebuild, relocate, expand or significantly redevelop nine existing branches, including two 1915 Carnegie facilities. The city has three principles it considers for each library branch redevelopment – maximize investment and revenue potential of city owned lands with stand-alone library facilities; advance community benefits through mixed use development opportunities and partnership possibilities; and, recognize today’s technology necessitates contemporary library services.
Other Canadian cities develop strategies and commit to long-term funding for their library systems. Why, in Ottawa, do the OPL and city council not adopt similar approaches?
Photo Caption: Rosemount Library, with the highest per capita circulation of all library branches in Ottawa, will undergo a renovation instead of the desired expansion requested by users. Not all users of the overcrowded Rosemount Branch are satisfied with what many deem an inadequate and inefficient assessment lacking adequate public consultation. Photo courtesy of R.E.A.D.
One thought on “March 15, 2018: Rosemount Library Renovation; Faulty Assessment Leads to Wrong Decision.”
The Rosemount Library is a historic building, but Ottawa, not too long ago, made a series of short-sighted decisions when it allowed the library to be hemmed in by condos. It would not now be possible to build any sort of annex to Rosemount. Nor would it be possible, for engineering reasons, to build up. The only reasonable option is to build a larger neighbourhood library on nearby site (there are numerous possibilities). The city could then re-purpose the historic Carnegie building as, say, a reading room/performance-and-meeting-space. The current Rosemount library it well-used and cherished by the community, but far too small. The neighbourhood has more than 40,000 people, and is growing fast, but the city seems indifferent to its needs. Is that because there are many lower income people in the Rosemount catchment area, because the only folks who count are those who live in the suburbs? The city made an ill-advised choice to locate the new main library in what is now a dark and empty landscape – on the theory that Le Breton Flats will someday become a well-populated condo farm. (That is far from certain, given the vagaries of the real estate market). The thousands of folks who live downtown could easily reach a downtown site, near the current main library, by foot. As it stands now, it would be dangerous to try to access the new main library site by foot, at night, and not too easy during the day, especially for those with mobility issues. After taking the bad decision on the main library, the city turned around and said: Well, the new main branch will be so close to the Rosemount area that you people will not need an expanded local library. There is still time to make better choices, both for Rosemount and the city as a whole.
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