Central Branch – 2021

The future of Reginas modernist Central Library, may be decided at the RPL Board meeting on June 22, 2021.

A report from Colliers Project Leaders and KPMG to the RPL Board, is expected to be on the RPL Board agenda on June 22, 2021; a draft agenda will be posted on Friday June 11 at https://www.reginalibrary.ca/about/leadership/board-meetings-2021. The deadline for: 1. A submission; and, 2. a request to make a presentation to the Board which must be clearly stated in your email to the Board and in your submission, would be Wednesday June 16 at 12 Noon. See the precise rules for making a submission here, which must be followed. https://www.reginalibrary.ca/about/leadership/presenting-to-the-board

Recent history

In the Fall of 2019, the Regina Public Library contracted Colliers Project Leaders and KPMG to develop a needs assessment and project plan to determine the future of Central Library in Regina. Their work, to review previous engineering, architectural and public consultation reports, and to also conduct further public engagement exercises, can be found here “Central Library Renewal”  https://www.reginalibrary.ca/about/major-projects 

At the most recent community open house on February 5, 2020, the vast majority of participants said that they appreciated the current building, and saw no reason to get rid of it rather than fixing what needed fixing and adding on if needed. A random sample telephone poll survey to ascertain public opinion about “Central Library investment” was conducted in March-April 2021. FRPL did not receive a reply to a request for information about survey methodology and questions. Previous public consultations have been about general ideas; so far, no specific options for the future of the building have been shared with the public.

In support of the RPL Budget for 2021, FRPLs address to Regina City Council highlighted the heritage value of our current Central Library, citing it as a classic example of modernist architecture, designed by a Regina engineering and architectural firm Izumi, Arnott and Sugiyama.

At the City’s Executive Committee on January 6, 2021, and at City Council on May 24, 2021, questions on the future cost of the “Central Library renewal” and the extent of public consultation on the future of Central Library were raised. When asked whether Heritage Regina had been consulted, the Library replied that while RPL was definitely aware of the heritage designation of Central Library, it was up to the Colliers Project Leaders and KPMG consultants to contact stakeholders; and, AFTER a decision was made about the future of Central Library, people knowledgeable about the process for changes to heritage buildings or designation would be consulted.

The discussion of the RPL budget mill rate increase are available at http://reginask.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=5255   FRPL’s presentation and Councillor questions run from 1:13 to 1:29. City Council’s question of the RPL Director start at the 6:30 point on the video recording and are done by 8:06, with the future of Central Library being one of the topics for questions.

Whats Next?

At this time, it is not known if the RPL Board will be making final decisions at the June 22, 2021 meeting, or if options for the future of Central Library will be identified and discussed publicly before final decisions are made.

Central Library is part of the Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District.  The urgency of this situation is because, if a demolition permit is requested by the RPL Board, the public will have only 30 days to argue for the Heritage Status of this modernist gem.

While the RPL Board has said there is no foregone conclusion, the tone of the RPL webpage, and along with comments of some civic leaders, would lead one to think that a new building is the desired outcome. This would mean tearing down the modernist 1962 Central Library.

Presciently, the 1962 Central Library Grand Opening program notes indicates that, if more space were needed, the vacant piece of land on the west side of the library property would allow for library expansion. Engineering reports indicated that it is possible to build a 3rd storey on the main building. More recently, the 2005 Patkau renovation of the Winnipeg Centennial Library is an excellent example of expansion.[1] Friends of the Regina Public Library, and along with many individuals and organizations interested in heritage and architecture, and many long-time library users, have long promoted these options.

Libraries are about preserving and sharing knowledge. Knowledge is contained in books, in digital formats, in art, in music, as well as in buildings and landscape. Thus, preserving the heritage embodied in the Central Library is within the role of the Regina Public Library, for the benefit of all citizens. Not every library building will necessarily have significant historical and cultural value, but Central Library – an iconic modernist building situated on historic Victoria Park – does have that value.

Please feel free to contact FRPL by email or call (306) 535-9570 for further discussion.

[1] “Patkau Architects of Vancouver joined local firm LM Architectural Group to design an award-winning expansion and renovation project that added a fourth storey, a multilevel reading terrace and a four-storey glass curtain wall overlooking the garden.”  https://www.winnipegarchitecture.ca/251-donald-street/