Regional council has rejected the idea of building a library at Queens Place.
The library steering committee put forward their unanimous recommendation to build the new library at the recreation hub at the last council meeting. The committee had a list of eight publicly and privately owned sites to choose from and determined the Queens Place location to be the best based on their criteria.
They were looking for a centrally located site with access to sidewalks that offered space to build a 6,000 square foot library and 24 parking spaces, easy emergency access, good exterior lighting, outdoor space, and no known flooding.
District 3 Coun. Maddie Charlton is concerned moving the library to Queens Place will make it inaccessible for low-income families in the downtown core.
“The poverty in our community is a huge concern and the low-income housing is not on that side of town. I spoke with one teacher who said that many of her low-income parents, during COVID, walked to the library so they could access internet for their children with their school work,” said Charlton. “There’s no transportation for the preschool age or the daycare age and just to put into perspective, there’s about to be, once the expansion happens at the Queens Daycare, 100 children at Queens Daycare. Think of the exposure they could have to the library if they could access it.”
Coun. for District 1 Kevin Muise agreed.
“People that walk there now are not going to walk across that bridge. They going to have to get cars and drive there. Low-income families who are in my district, they’re not going to walk across that bridge and go [to the library]. The other council, we was [sic] always arguing about putting stuff on that side of the bridge. Why don’t we have stuff on this side of the bridge. I just feel the library should stay on this side of the bridge,” said Muise.
Mayor Darlene Norman responded that everyone in the community finds access to the two major grocery stores located around the corner from the library. The mayor expressed concern that perhaps council wasn’t fully considering all the services a library offers.
“I would think that our goal is to expand library use in Queens,” said Norman. “Library is a much larger service than books. It’s education programming, safety programming, it’s government, a way to reach different levels of government.”
Further complicating the discussion is the idea of combining the construction of the new library with a new pool, an idea put forward by the Queens Community Aquatic Society.
District 6 Coun. David Brown says plans to develop a library were already in motion before that idea was put forward and the two resources aren’t compatible.
“If council had wanted the two projects together, the terms of reference, I think, would’ve reflected that. We got terms of reference for a library and that’s what the committee has looked at,” said Brown. “The committee has also looked at the possibility of combining with the swimming pool. There’s nothing against that idea. The problem that we’ve got is the majority of the land that we have won’t support the two projects together. The area we selected as a committee is not big enough for the pool and a library together.”
In a five to three decision, council voted down the proposed Queens Place location for a new library.
Mayor Norman says a special meeting will be called in July for council to refine the parameters of a new library before sending it back to the library steering committee to come up with a second recommendation.
Reported by Ed Halverson
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