Board members say transition necessary

thumb DemongCalgary’s new central public library will offer both physical books and digital resources.

On Feb. 19 the Priorities and Finance Committee met with board members of the Calgary Public Library, or CPL, and a representative of the City of Calgary to discuss the construction progress of the new library in the East Village that will begin in 2014.

What will become of the current downtown central library is yet to be determined.

Members of the board presented a report to the committee that outlined the project’s budget, building schedule, community engagement, programming and operational plans.DemongAld. Demong raised concern about the incorporation of more digital resources for the city’s new central public library at the Prioriies and Finance Committee meeting on Feb. 19.

Photo by Alyssa Quirico

One heavily debated topic was the CPL’s decision to incorporate even more digital resources to complement its projected physical collection of 600,000 books.

“It concerns me that one of the main strategies of the new library is to decrease books. Call me old fashioned, but it concerns me,” said Ward 14 Ald. Peter Demong.

Ellen Humphreys, CEO of the Calgary Public Library, explained that this physical collection is a “pretty good size” for the central library. She said she doesn’t believe that books are dying, but that the trend now is that people are relying more on e-books and other online sources for information.

“Digital resources are not a replacement, but rather one more resource to offer,” said Humphreys.

Rather than stacks of books lining the walls, the new central library’s digital resources will allow for more physical space for public use and evolving library services.

“It’s not a definite strategy to reduce resources. The strategy is to make sure we have the most effective use of public space,” said Tracy Bertsch a representative of the City of Calgary.

The library will cost approximately $245 million. The board members expect to see 5,000 visitors per day when the library opens in 2018.

Creating physical space is necessary for:

  • Increasing comfort for patrons accessing information
  • Child-friendly programs
  • Teaching information literacy in digital programs such as Windows, Microsoft, etc
  • Helping new citizens adapt to Canadian life
  • Access to computers

Details regarding specific functions are still being discussed but will likely be determined later this year.

In 2012, the Calgary Public Library surveyed nearly 17,000 Calgarians who were both users and non-users of the library system. This revealed that library services and the expectations of the public have changed in the digital age. The board argues that the new central library is simply a response to that need.

The committee voted unanimously in support of the report brought to them by CPL. All but Ald. Demong voted for the review of operations, which included the plans to incorporate more digital resources

This means that the final decision will now be moved on to full council on Monday, Feb. 25 for the final green light on the project.

“This is a big day,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Ward 7 Ald. Druh Farrell, who is also on the CPL board, expressed excitement for the new library project as “an anchor for the East Village.”

“This will change downtown Calgary; and in fact Calgary (as a whole) forever,” said Ald. Farrell.

More information about the new central library can be found on the CPL website.

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