What’s Been Happening With a New @DowntownGuelph Library? #Guelph @GuelphLibrary 

A few weeks ago the Guelph Mercury welcomed a brand new community editorial contributor to the fold. 

For his first, (perhaps last now) column he choose to try and describe how over the last 13 months as mayor I have lacked leadership on one particular issue – making the construction of a new downtown library a priority.
Very quickly, the community chose sides. 
Many commented that the city doesn’t need a new downtown library. That we should renovate the existing one. Or, that the existing one is working just fine – “don’t put a dime into it” some told me. Even more indicated that their local branch serves their needs just fine and they would rather not have any of their hard earned money spent on a new library downtown at all. 

The other side argued that the current one is out of date, too small and has limited parking. It should be a center to help the homeless and people find jobs. That certain sections need expansion and that there are repairs that need to be addressed. 
No matter what side was chosen, both sides commented to me that the staff at all 6 of our branches across the city (and the traveling bookmobile) were superb.
On social media some city councillors jumped in too. Some stated that the opinion piece “couldn’t have said (what was written) any better”. Others proclaimed “Let’s get a new Library back on the agenda and back in the budget.” A few others liked the article on social media too. 
But let’s go back to the opinion piece and address a few things:
A new downtown central library has the potential to be a $25-$35-$45 million dollar (or more) capital project to which we currently have no idea of its permanent location, its updated needs, no concrete idea of potential increases to its operating costs and we currently don’t have the $25-$35-$45 million dollars. In my opinion, lobbing more of taxpayers money at “unknowns” at this present time isn’t the right thing to do. We must plan properly, just like you would in your own home or business.
It’s also a good opportunity to update him, and probably a few others in the community, on what has been done regarding the downtown library by myself and this council over the past 13 months.
– Baker Street update: An amended motion (requested by me, yet brought forward by Councillor Downer on my behalf) passed by council directing city staff to work with the library board on the existing Baker Street development potential or other downtown opportunities for a new library location.

– Up to $200,000 approved by council during the 2016 budget for the library board to establish an updated assessment of its location and needs.

– Two formal discussions with new MP Lloyd Longfield about potential infrastructure funding from the federal government for our city.

– A corporate risk assessment of the current downtown library facility with this report forthcoming to council this year.

– Discussions with the private sector on further development opportunities where I consistently bring up the library.

In addition to the above actions taken, his column failed to acknowledge the decisions of previous councils and library boards to move our library services away from a centralized (downtown) service model to an established satellite branch model in every Ward of our city which significantly increased accessibility for the vast majority of our residents. 
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Guelph’s library system is one of the highest trafficked library services in the province. 

A 2014 Municipal BMA Study found that Guelph annually funds it’s local library services to the tune of $70 per capita. This places Guelph No. 1 in the province amongst municipalities with over 100K residents and over 60% higher than the provincial average of $42 per capita. This even tops the City of Toronto. 
These excellent statistics in no way mean we look the other way on making a current situation even better, with potential better opportunities!
I hope the above details outline clearly that this term of council has not ignored the downtown library issue. I continue to be an advocate for well planned, accurate, properly located and financially feasible capital projects and the library is on that list.
Instead of throwing insults or uninformed comments towards myself or city hall on this issue, I encourage people to walk with us on the downtown library issue. I want an atmosphere where consensus can be built that builds our community up in a positive way that benefits all.

Cam Guthrie
Mayor – City of Guelph 

7 responses to “What’s Been Happening With a New @DowntownGuelph Library? #Guelph @GuelphLibrary ”

  1. Marg Harbin Avatar
    Marg Harbin

    I believe the existing downtown library needs to be replaced but feel that a new building should be multi purpose and does not necessarily have to be at Baker Street.At the time City Hall was built, I thought it may have been a good idea to incorporate the library. As there are several financial concerns for Guelph right now, I would not want to see any money spent on major capital initiatives. We have this infrastructure gap partly because previous councils spent on capital that should possibly have gone to upkeep. For this reason I support Mayor Guthrie’s approach 100%.

  2. David Chamberlain Avatar
    David Chamberlain

    If we consider the next 25-50 years of what this facility will be really asked to fulfill – I think we would have answers wide and far apart. What is the future of the printed word? Will we even have need for books and periodicals? Personally I see this becoming more of a civic center focused providing needed information services and fostering community collaboration, meeting spaces for social engagement and entertainment. The speed of technology has certainly turned the printed material sector on its head – I think some real honest thought and debate is needed to actually determine what a ‘library’ really is in 2030. I certainly understand that today’s library is not just a book warehouse but also it is certain that yesterday’s library is not the model for the library of the future.

  3. judydezell669@gmail.com Avatar

    Thank you for a balanced response. The article raised my ire for many reasons including my lack of conviction we need to invest in a downtown library with such a strong branch model.

    I meant to send you a note at the time as an employee of AMO I think his article crossed an ethical boundary. He is employed as a lobbyist as I am. To publically condemn one of your members seems completely unethical to me. While I am sad the Mercury closed I am pleased his soap box was removed. I also intend to ask him directly the next time I see him how he squares the work that pays him with his poison pen.

    Keep up the great work Mayor Guthrie!

    Judy Dezell


  4. Margaret Langton Ahlers Avatar
    Margaret Langton Ahlers

    It is breathtakingly abysmal that a university city does not have an adequate, well-equipped and architecturally-beautiful main library. The branches are pleasant and convenient but they cannot begin to fill the need for proper archives and the need for community meeting spaces. There is no institution more democratic than a library and there is no institution that will do more good for more people. Brantford – with all its economic challenges – has a big, modern downtown main library. That’s just one example of a modest place which found the vision lacking here.

  5. Cori P Avatar
    Cori P

    When I was living in Guelph, I rarely went to the downtown location. I would frequent the location in the Bullfrog Plaza at Eramosa and Stevenson Street and if they didn’t have the book I wanted, they would get it from another location for me. To me, it’s ridiculous to throw a lot of money at a “downtown” library. How many people actually use that location to justify spending that kind of money? That money could be better used elsewhere.

  6. Tanya Ferris Avatar
    Tanya Ferris

    I am a long time lover of books! The Library is a lovely place to unleash your creativity by young and old! It is an awesome decision to upgrade our Library and about time! Thank you!

  7. Lisa Avatar

    Thanks for the update mayor. Decentralized is excellent as long as we are not paying huge rents in plazas. And doesn’t solve the need for a new central building.

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