Tomorrow (Wednesday 15 May) I plan to wander down to the Newmarket Public Library on Park Avenue and sit in on the 5.30pm Board meeting. The meetings aren’t streamed or video recorded so if you wanna know, you gotta go.
One item on the agenda catches my attention. The Library Chief Executive, Todd Kyle, is giving an update on how and when the library’s pressing need for more space is going to be addressed.
Over a year ago Todd told us the library in Park Ave was crowded with not enough space to meet customer demand. In his blog Todd said the proposed options for expanding library space in Newmarket are (a) to create a new, larger central library to replace the existing one or (b) to keep the current location and also build a new branch to serve another area of town.
In his latest report to the Library Board Todd gives the recent chronology:
“In September 2016, the Library Board voted to use existing funds to commission a study on future facilities needs and options pending Town of Newmarket support… In May 2017 Council was asked to endorse such a study but deferred that until after a pending efficiencies review of library operations was completed. In February 2018 Council approved implementation of the efficiencies study but moved to defer consideration of a facilities study to the 2018-2022 Council Strategic Priority setting exercise.”
The Town has now completed the “strategic priorities” exercise but, once again, there is no mention of a new library. The can has been kicked down the road for the nth time. Todd regularly complains about the library not being a priority. But where was he when councillors were musing about their priorities for the next four years? He was noticeable by his absence. Was Todd invited to make a pitch for a new library or expanded facilities? And if not why not? Did he insist on making the case in a face-to-face presentation to councillors?
During the municipal election last October Regional Councillor Tom Vegh famously promised voters a combined Library and Seniors’ Centre on the Hollingsworth site but since then he has done nothing to advance his proposal. Tom had sat on the Library Board for years. He told me about his Hollingsworth proposal on 25 February 2019:
"This is something that I am working diligently on. When I have something concrete to announce I will let you know."
Since then Tom has lost his voice.
During the strategic priorities exercise Timid Tom was silent when the Mayor gave him every opportunity to make the case for his new library. Jane Twinney and Kelly Broome - who have sat on the Library Board for years - clearly thought the library wasn’t worth pushing as a priority and bit their tongues.
Taylor has other things on his plate
The Mayor, John Taylor, doesn’t see the library as a priority and is concentrating on Mulock Farm as his big legacy project. And it seems unlikely that the Town will consider any expansion of library facilities without having a study first. Which brings us full circle. Clearly, the sooner a Library Facilities Study is commissioned and completed the better.
In his Update to the Board Todd says:
“Discussions with senior Town staff on how best to approach a study are ongoing. It is thought that a collaborative approach would be best, leveraging possibilities for a facility shared with other community uses and and aligning with the Town’s goal (and another Strategic Priority) to create vibrant urban corridors along Yonge, Davis and Mulock.”
“… Given that the need for expanded library space has already been established, it might be best to focus the study on a somewhat narrower search for and comparison of existing and potential sites.”
Seems to me we are all going round in ever decreasing circles.
Hollingsworth Arena development
As it happens, next Tuesday (21 May) the Town will be considering a report from Planning staff on the future of Hollingsworth Arena. The idea that Timid Tom will pull out a plan for a new library and seniors’ centre at this late stage is for the birds. A complete fantasy.
But what about the possibility of a new Branch library?
Councillors are being invited to endorse Hollingsworth “scenario 2” which includes a six-storey seniors’ residence with a 8,589 sq ft “community facility” on part of the ground floor.
This is about one quarter of the size of the NPL in Park Avenue (35,000 square feet including administration and technical offices) but surely a case can be made for this space to house a Branch library? It meets Todd’s location criteria and ticks a lot of the boxes - but there may be other issues to work through such as parking.
Todd’s update to Library Board members recommends moving ahead with a study asap. Mysteriously, he says
“Renewal of current contract resources at the Library would facilitate the increased workload that would occur if a study were to be undertaken.”
What on earth does this mean?
The Board would commission a study by outside consultants having already earmarked $50,000 of library funds for this purpose.
It is not going to be done by in-house staff so where is the increased workload?
What am I missing?
Blast from the past: Doug Ford would close a library branch in a heartbeat.