REGINA — Regina Public Library is launching a Take 2 of sorts for the Central Library’s revitalization, engaging residents in another round of public consultations intended to move the main branch into the 21st century.
“It’s time to go back and say ‘What do the people of Regina actually want? What’s important?’” said Regina Public Library board of directors chair Darryl Lucke.
On Wednesday, the library is launching a series of public consultations that will drag into the fall. The hope, said Lucke, is to fashion a vision for an updated library that will serve the community for the next half-century.
This visioning process couldn’t come soon enough. At 50 years old, the library is already showing its age. The windows, roof and heating system need replacing. It’s too small, and existing programming — not to mention future needs — have outgrown what space is available.
But this consultation is about a lot more than repairs.
Dialog, a Vancouver-based public engagement firm behind reinventions of the Vancouver and Calgary public libraries, has been hired to lead the public consultations.
“Central libraries help revitalize downtown areas as long as they’re designed in a way that keeps them as a destination, and as long as they look like something that people are exceptionally proud of and they become iconic,” said Ken Roberts, a consultant with Dialog who tracks global library trends.
To accomplish that task, Roberts said libraries need to not only consider esthetics but their function. In 2014, that means a strong focus on digital offerings and digital workspaces. It also entails providing more meeting and collaborative spaces, as well as appealing to the “creative side of people’s lives”: Building music, art and video rooms, for example.
The public consultations, which will involve in-person sessions such as Wednesday’s at the Central Library at 7 p.m., online surveys and mobile polling units at summertime events, will attempt to engage both current and potential library users.
Roberts said the main challenge of libraries nowadays is not the long-lamented decline of the printed book but the perception that libraries’ only purpose is to provide paperbacks.
“What we’re about is enabling discovery,” he said.
The library’s last attempt at reinvention perhaps took that multi-purpose role too far. The Cultural Centre Redevelopment Project envisioned a combined new Central Library, Globe Theatre, restaurants, stores, museum and hotel.
The Friends of Regina Public Library opposed the idea and criticized what it considered the board of director’s non-transparent approach.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that the library board is making more of an effort to communicate with the public,” said Joanne Havelock, Friends of Regina Public Library chair, of this round of consultations.
The group’s primary concern remains the preservation of the existing building. While it’s looking forward to upgrades to the current structure to meet users’ needs, Havelock said she fears the bigger the project, the more likely it becomes a public-private partnership.
The library currently has a request for proposals out for tender on the price tag of remedial work required for the building — a contract that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of entirely replacing the library. The engineering review contract will be awarded in July.