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New public library on Regina City Hall’s radar

Regina City Hall Update - Future plans for the Central Library a focus at Executive Committee Wednesday.
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This week, Executive Committee met to hear about the future of the Regina Public Library.

REGINA — A brand new downtown Central Library could be one of the “catalyst” projects happening in Regina in the coming years.

But it is still early days before final decisions are made, and there is already some resistance being expressed by residents who would prefer a renovation for the existing library instead.

The issue came up at Executive Committee on Wednesday with representatives from the Regina Public Library on hand to discuss the future of the Central Library.

Board chair Sean Quinlan and Jeff Barber, library director and CEO, noted that the current library was built in 1962 and faces a host of issues, including “code discrepancies, accessibility issues and building systems at or beyond expected usefulness,” according to Quinlan.

He explained that it would take $50 million for building system replacement and renovation just to bring the building up to code, and that just keeps the doors open.

“An investment of this magnitude for a building that old and that small is not a practical investment,” Quinlan said.

Instead, the board is recommending the “best way to renew the Central Library is to replace it with a new one," said Quinlan. It would be located at the corner of 12th Avenue and Lorne Street, where they had been located for years.

It is expected the new space could mean an additional 250,000 visits per year to the current 470,000, according to numbers presented to Executive Committee.

But there was resistance to the idea of a completely new library building. Executive Committee also heard from delegations who expressed their desire to explore ways to maintain the current building and possibly add a third floor to it. Joanne Havelock of Friends of the Regina Public Library noted there was “historical value” to the current building.

But that idea might not be viable: the current building may not be able to sustain a third floor built over top of it.

Mayor Sandra Masters noted to reporters that there was some engineering analysis on the current building, which indicated increasing the programming space would require “essentially an entire superstructure to go around the existing building, which may or may not cost more than building new.”

Regarding the next steps, Regina Public Library has indicated they will be bringing the project to the community at a public board meeting later on this month. 

The library leadership is finalizing a business case to be presented there, and a decision will be put to the board. Following a decision to move forward, next steps would be to retain a design consultant and continue fundraising activities.

Also, the Public Library has indicated willingness to participate with the city’s Catalyst Committee, which was set up to guide the development of major transformative city projects including new arena, baseball stadium and aquatic centre. 

Quinlan noted in his presentation that the library was a good fit with these other proposals, because their mandate “does not compete — it complements. Our purpose is to provide community services, spaces and technologies to inspire discovery, learning and connection.”

Mayor Masters said to reporters that throughout October the Catalyst Committee will be doing week-long public consultations “so that stakeholders, user groups, residents can go give ideas and opinions and weigh in on all the different elements that are looked at in terms of those catalyst projects, the library being one of them. So, right now, it’s a matter of when that final Catalyst Committee report comes in on siting, costs and financial liability for future options for funding projects over the course of how many years — the library will form part of that report.”