Tuesday, 31 January 2017

New Site for Ottawa Public Library Central

Is it the nature of community decisions that nobody is likely to be entirely happy?

On Tuesday the Ottawa Public Library Board will meet to consider a proposal detailed here. It would see a Ottawa Public Library -Library and Archives Canada Joint Facility, 216,000 gross square feet (with an estimated 133,000 gross square feet allocated to OPL), built at a city-owned site at 557 Wellington Street.

Vocal downtown resident library users are unhappy as the site falls outside the conventional downtown perimeter. They complain the location is inconvenient, would mean an extra 20 minute walk or a transit fare.

Others complain about the cost. In an age when more and more is going online they argue a major library building is a wasteful and unnecessary expense.

Suburbanites, depending on location, think the money would be better spent on improving their service. From my suburban location the walk to the nearest OPL branch takes over an hour; the bus ride to the nearest branch is about 40 minutes. Why have downtowners been selfishly silent about substandard service in the suburbs?

Those using Library and Archives Canada recognize that the new facility will do nothing about delays in retrieving materials for consultation, and preclude any more satisfactory development. I've experienced this. You can find that a box you ordered in advance is the wrong one or is missing material. For those living in Ottawa it means delay. For those coming from a distance it means reordering and waiting costly days, if that's possible, or another expensive trip with the possibility of the same result. It would be much better if the storage and consultation facilities were co-located as at the National Archives in Kew (for most materials) and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, as well as at many smaller archives.

Whatever decision is made sections of the community will likely be dissatisfied.


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