Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

REGINA PUBLIC LIBRARY: UNDER ATTACK AGAIN?

Posted by strattof on March 15, 2012

In 2003, the Library Board, with the support of City Council, announced the closure of three library branches–Connaught, Glen Elm, and Prince of Wales–along with the main branch’s Dunlop Art Gallery and Prairie History Room.

In response, Regina citizens mobilized, forming the Friends of the Regina Public Library. Leading five months of public protests and collecting more than 26,000 petition signatures, this group forced the closures to be rescinded. 

Today, the Library Board has major plans for the Central Branch. But it is refusing to be open about them. Indeed, there have been no public consultations since August 2009.

The Library is public property, owned by the citizens of Regina. We must be involved in any changes that are to be made to our Library.  

LIBRARY BOARD’S PLAN FOR CENTRAL LIBRARY: WHAT IS IT?

Since the Library Board continues to be secretive about its plans for Central Library, the following information has been pieced together from a variety of sources.

1.   In 2009, the Library Board announced it had commissioned the Regina firms, P3 Architecture and Harvard Developments, to conduct a feasibility study for a new Central Library.

2.   Harvard Developments approached various non-profit organizations to become partners in the project. Globe Theatre agreed.

3.   In April 2011, the Vancouver firm, Nick Milkovich Architects, put up images on its website of what a new Central Library “would look like.” The drawings showed “a dramatic building rising high into the sky and stretching out to cover most of the west side of the 1900 block of Lorne Street.” According to the Library Board, the images had been “released prematurely” (Joe Couture, “New library plan in early stages,” Leader Post, April 28 2011).

4.   While the site made mention of “hotel and commercial space” (Couture), it made no mention of space for the Dunlop Art Gallery or the RPL Film Theatre. Nor is there any reference to these facilities in the 2011 Annual Report made by the Library Board to City Council.

5.   The drawings show the new building as not only covering the land on which the Central Library now stands, but also the land immediately south of it where the Masonic Temple presently stands.

6.   The Masons are under pressure from the Library Board and Harvard Developments to sell their land. To date, the Masons have not agreed to sell.  

7.   Both the Masonic Temple and the Central Library are protected within the Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District. Completed in 1926, the Masonic Temple is one of Regina’s oldest buildings. Built in 1962, the Central Library is an excellent example of the City’s modernist architecture.

8.   In June 2011, the Library Board submitted an application to the P3 Canada Fund. The Library has been accepted into the first phase of this funding process. The deadline for the next phase–the business plan–is March 31 2012.

THE PLAN: WHAT WE NOW KNOW

 Here’s what we now know about the Library Board’s plan for the Central Library. According to the plan:

  • The Central Library and the Masonic Temple, both heritage buildings, will be demolished.
  • Harvard Developments will construct a large multi-use cultural-commercial facility on the land where Central Library and Masonic Temple once stood.
  • Harvard will lease back some of the space to the Library and other cultural organizations. Space will also be allocated to private businesses, such as retailers, restaurants, and hotels.
  • The Library Board has not publically stated that the new Central Library will include space for the Film Theatre and Dunlop Gallery.
  • The project will be a P3 or Public Private Partnership project.

P3s: PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS: WHAT ARE THEY?

P3s are legally binding contracts between governments and businesses for the provision of infrastructure and services. They tend to be one-sided, favouring private profit over public interest.  

  • P3s transfer public property and services into private hands. As a result, there is a loss of public accountability. For example, in order to maximize profits, corporations often cut services or bring in user fees making services inaccessible for many people.   
  • P3s cost more. In P3 schemes, the public pays for the service and the profits that must be paid to shareholders. Moreover, P3s are financed by private borrowing which has higher interest rates than public sector rates.
  • P3s mean huge profits for private firms.
  • P3s may give the appearance of lower government debt levels, but they do not take debt off the books. A long-term capital lease is still a debt.
  • P3s undermine democracy by reducing the capability, power, and responsibility of governments to provide and deliver services. 

TAKE ACTION

Since 1912, Central Library has been public property, bought and paid for by Regina taxpayers. The transfer of this public property into private hands requires public approval.

  • Contact the members of the Library Board and let them know that you want the board to be open and transparent about its plans for Central Library and that you want citizen participation in the process:

   Darlene Hincks Joehnck, Chair: dhincks@reginalibrary.ca

   Jeff Barber: jbarber@reginalibrary.ca

   Elaine Kivisto: ekivisto@reginalibrary.ca

   Darrly Lucke: dlucke@reginalibrary.ca

   Sharron Bryce: sbryce@reginalibrary.ca

   Pat Fiacco: pfiacco@reginalibrary.ca

   Janet Brown: jbrown@reginalibrary.ca

   Renu Kapoor: rkapoor@reginalibrary.ca

   Gerald Kleisinger: gkleisinger@reginalibrary.ca

   Shelley Monson: smonson@reginalibrary.ca

WE LOVE REGINA PUBLIC LIBRARIES

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