Guest Opinion By Don Scott
Confederation Centre Library
Recently I have had conversations with a few people who have suggested that the Board of the Confederation Centre is considering the idea of relocating the Confederation Centre Library to a outside facility. If such an idea is under consideration, it should be a topic for public discussion and not something to be dealt with only at the boardroom table of the Centre.
I have had a long association with the Confederation Centre Library, as a staff member and as a patron. Although I have difficulty approaching this topic objectively, I believe that this is not a good idea.
The concept of a multi-purpose Arts Centre, consisting of an art gallery, a library and a theatre to serve the citizens of the city and the Island is as valid today as it was when Dr. Frank MacKinnon and his supporters first put the idea forward. It makes no more sense to move the library out of the complex than it would to move the art gallery.
The rationale behind this idea seems to be using that space for some sort of commemorative function. That plan has been talked about in the past but it was my impression that the creation of Founders Hall, and its subsequent
failure to profit, had put an end to this idea.
The library is operated by the province and is not the responsibility of the Centre. This has at times resulted in the Centre regarding the library as a tenant rather than a sister institution which shares its mandate. It appears that this attitude is at play here and relocating the library is seen as an easy solution to making it possible for the Centre to move forward with its strategic plan.
If the library were to be relocated, the most obvious question arising is what the new location would be. It seems obvious the service must continue to be located in the city center. This is important from the point of view of the public wishing to access the library. It is also important to the downtown business community. The library draws a large number of people downtown, year-round and throughout the full business day. Historically a very large portion of the visitors to the Centre, especially in the June/September period, has been library users.
The other big question is who would pay for the new facility. The provincial library operates on the basis that it provides staff and books and manages the service. The local community provides the building. The practice has been somewhat different in Charlottetown. I assume this arrangement was reached on the basis that the existing library had to be taken down when the Centre was constructed. It is unlikely the city would be interested in providing a 20,000-square-foot facility to house the library.
Over the years the Centre has gradually encroached on the library space largely to provide room for its administrative functions. I sincerely hope that this discussion is not the lead-up to the final encroachment.
Don Scott, Stratford, has a long association with the Confederation Centre Library, as a staff member and as a patron.