Delta politicians discuss idea of one large library

Is Delta better served by having one large library rather than three smaller locations spread out in Ladner, Tsawwassen and North Delta?

That was one of the questions raised by Delta council last week during a presentation by Scott Hargrove, CEO of the Fraser Valley Regional Library, who talked about library trends and the future of libraries.

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There are advantages and disadvantages to having either one large library or several smaller satellite ones, he said, noting it all depends on the goals of the community.

“Right here in the Fraser Valley Regional Library system, of course, we have the City of Langley that went one way. They have their major facility right in the centre of town as part of the city hall facility, and then the Township of Langley went the other way. They have multiple neighbourhood libraries around. Both sides have their advantages and disadvantages… 90 per cent of people who come to a library in person tend to come from a three-mile radius. So, of course, it would certainly support the neighourhood library as a local area of real success,” he said.

“I’m going to say as well that there’s some incredible things you can do with modern technology that radically improve the ability to deliver amazing services in a relatively small to medium library facility. Having said that, there is truly nothing you can do in a facility like that that compares to a Calgary Public Library or Vancouver Public Library where you have a massive amount of space,” he added.

Asked about a potential new library in Tsawwassen, Hargrove said the existing Tsawwassen Library in the town centre is “leaps and bounds” ahead of where it was prior to renovations but “there’s something to be said about new built” because it provides a blank slate.

“For me, of course, I think this is a massive opportunity. It’s incredibly exciting to think of the potential that you have when you’re starting from scratch. You can build everything from the ground up with the needs of the community in mind, with the needs that have emerged over time when that building was first built. You’re never going to have an opportunity to do something like that. So, as much as the existing facility has its charm, and it’s a lovely facility, no question, what you can do with something new is truly astonishing,” Hargrove added.

A report to council notes a long-term goal in Delta’s Library Plan is for the Tsawwassen branch to be relocated to a city-owned building. It’s currently the only Delta library that’s in rented space.

The most heavily used of the city’s three libraries with 8,000 visitors per week, the branch could end up as part of a the Century Group’s proposed major redevelopment of the Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall, a proposal that would see a new library be given to the city. Century Group unveiled its vision earlier this year but hasn’t submitted a formal application to the city yet.

During the discussion, Coun. Lois Jackson said libraries should also be a place for people to gather, adding North Delta’s George Mackie Library “is in rough shape” and is too small, so something needs to be done.

The staff report notes for 2019 it was determined that funding allocated for library enhancements be focused on the development of an integrated service experience at the George Mackie Library. The city has also undertaken a number of cosmetic renovations at the branch to brighten it up.

Meantime, the ongoing issue of enhancing library services to residents living south of 72nd Avenue in North Delta has been referred to the 2020 business plan workshop.

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