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TBM council pumps brakes on Craigleith library concept

'We don't want to miss the mark on this ... it’s going to be a clear and pressing matter,' said Coun. Shawn McKinlay
Members of The Blue Mountains Public Library Board met with council on June 14.

The Blue Mountains council has decided it will not be rushing into building a new library branch to service the Craigleith area.

Council and The Blue Mountains Public Library Board held a special joint meeting on June 14 to discuss a potential new library branch being built to service the east end (general Craigleith area) of the town.

At the meeting, the board requested council approve in principle the concept of a new library facility being built on the former school board property adjacent to the Home Farm site. If support for the idea was given, the board would begin work on building a business case for such a facility through a needs assessment report.

However, council wasn’t willing to support the concept in principle without more information and data about library usage. For council, the spectre of a future multi-use facility for a number of services in Craigleith was a motivating factor in pausing the library request for approval in principle.

Instead, council unanimously passed a resolution requesting more data from the library board about the usage of the L.E. Shore and Depot library facilities, directed town staff to ensure a full consultation with the library board when a multi-use facility feasibility study is conducted and asked that the board’s presentation on the matter be sent to the new Craigleith working group that will form soon.

The board approached council about the Home Farm concept to ensure the library was included in any future planning for the property. The need for expanded library services in the east end of town has been a discussion point locally for a number of years.

“Expansion of library services is not a new topic. An east-end library is not a new idea,” said board chair Laurey Gillies. “The board is prepared to move quickly to meet council’s needs and timing on this project.”

Library CEO Sabrina Saunders said usage of the library in the Craigleith area has transformed in recent years.

“It has certainly changed since the pandemic,” said Saunders, noting library users from that area of town are interested in receiving similar services as the L.E. Shore branch in Thornbury.

Saunders said the Home Farm site offers a site that is a flexible space and walkable for local residents.

“This would be the best location from a service end,” she said.

Members of council, however, wanted to see more data to justify the project.

“I would want to see a much more robust business case,” said Coun. June Porter, stating council would need more information about operational and maintenance costs before any approval.

Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon acknowledged that the rapid growth in Craigleith is “driving the need for services” in Craigleith, but he felt that the town had to look at the situation as a whole.

“I think it’s a little premature to say we agree in principle. I don’t know if that is the optimal site,” said Bordignon. “I’d really like to see this facility study done.”

Coun. Paula Hope also said approving the concept in principle was premature.

“We owe it to the community to provide much more of the database from which we make our decisions,” said Hope. “I don’t want to move forward until we have a complete handle on what those figures are. We must be able to justify to our taxpayers the kind of return on investment of tax dollars for a library.”

Both Sauders and Gillies said it is important for the library to be involved in the planning stages for future Craigleith services immediately and throughout the process.

“The important part is we’re at that table in those stages,” said Saunders. “We definitely need to be front and centre in this thought process.”

Gillies said the board wanted to be involved at the “ground-floor” level.

“We’d like to be arriving earlier in the process knowing that council supports our participation,” she said.

Coun. Shawn McKinlay, who is council’s representative on the library board, said the need for expanded library services is well-known and is not going away.

“A lot of residents of Craigleith have pontificated to me that they want and need something to gather around. (A new library facility) would be a community hub like that,” said McKinlay. “My concern is: we don’t want to miss the mark on this. It’s been on the books for a long time. It’s going to be a clear and pressing matter.”

Council voted 7-0 against the motion to approve a Craigleith library concept in principle. 

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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