Todd Kyle, the Chief Executive of Newmarket Public Library, leaves 438 Park Avenue today for the last time. On Monday he starts his big new job running Brampton library, an empire with eight branches.
Todd says his years at Newmarket were among the best of his career but he is looking for new challenges. (Photo right)
The Library Board Chair, Darcy McNeill says Todd was responsible for expanding the Library’s digital collection, boosting borrowing by 25% and bringing in the (famously temperamental) 3D printer. But I suspect Todd’s biggest disappointment will be leaving Newmarket after ten years much as he found it – an undersized building with no satellite branches.
No longer fit-for-purpose
Way back in October 2014 Todd told an IdeaMarket programme about the future of libraries that Newmarket’s was no longer fit for purpose. He was talking to a panel of people from the Library world and was unusually candid. Whenever I heard him talking to councillors he was always measured and nuanced, offering “potential road maps going forward” and suchlike with decisions pushed back to another day.
However, I noticed that by 2016 he was getting more assertive, telling councillors the library was too small and in the wrong location. And the roof leaked.
The result of all the vacillations was, inevitably, another study - on Library future facilities options.
Things looked as if they might be about to change when veteran Newmarket councillor Tom Vegh decided to run for York Regional Council campaigning on a platform whose centrepiece was a new library and seniors’ centre on the site of the old Hollingsworth Arena. This was an eye-catching promise to voters.
Emboldened, Todd tells the press:
“The last two terms of council haven’t put the library on the priority list. It would be nice to just have a space where people aren’t tripping over other people constantly.”
“The current location has restrictions on the land so we would have to build up to expand, which isn’t ideal. Our two options seem to be building a new facility or constructing satellite branches to increase our services to the public.”
After the Municipal election in November 2018 Newmarket Councillors sat through a series of workshops to decide their strategic priorities. Unfortunately, they decide the Library isn’t one.
New library not a priority
At the very least I expected a stirring speech from Tom Vegh, pressing the case for the library. Reminding his colleagues that, in these days of fake news and disinformation, libraries, wired-up and digital, are needed now more than ever. But what we heard was painfully limp and half hearted.
“...the library must go through its own process that will evaluate and rank all the possible site locations in Town for a new building if that is the route that they choose to go. So there is no guarantee that going through that process the library will land on the Hollingsworth site and there is no guarantee that we are looking at a library.”
It's not quite as snappy as his promise to the voters:
“The debate over the need for a new public library is long over. The only question now is where and when.”
The new Mayor, John Taylor, isn't giving much away. In a statement of the obvious he tells the press:
“Ultimately, the decision to build a library, or a satellite or nothing is a decision of council, and that will be our decision when that time comes.”
Can't argue with that. It's the Councillors who have the last say. But, in the meantime, here's a question to think about for anyone who wants the job of Library Chief Executive:
Does Newmarket need a new Library? And, if so, where should it go and when can we expect to see it?