Students, teachers raise voices at rally urging city to reconsider closing book on West Kildonan library

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About 150 West Kildonan residents engaged in a loud rally Tuesday in the hopes of saving a cherished quiet space.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/05/2022 (255 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

About 150 West Kildonan residents engaged in a loud rally Tuesday in the hopes of saving a cherished quiet space.

The crowd of concerned residents, which included many students from nearby schools, gathered outside the West Kildonan library to share chants and speeches aimed at stopping a city proposal to relocate the branch.

Katelyn Panchoo, a Grade 9 student, told the crowd the library has been a key part of her childhood, providing an easily accessible service that’s now at risk.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Evan Krosney (left) and Daniel Guenther (speaking) at the rally they organized at West Kildonan Library to protest moving of the community library to a local mall.

“(It could) be moved to a dark corner in the Garden City mall, where it will have no windows… (and) will most likely feel more like a bookstore rather than a community library,” she said.

A new proposal would see the city lease a 15,000-square-foot space in the Garden City Shopping Centre. That site would become the location of a new West Kildonan library, and the city would close the existing stand-alone branch at 365 Jefferson Ave.

City officials expect it would cost about $2 million to improve the mall space, plus an annual rent of about $217,000 for the first five years and $232,000 for the next five. A city staff report that recommends the change estimates it would cost much less than constructing a new library building.

The report notes the Jefferson Avenue library branch was built in 1967 and says it is “increasingly challenged in accommodating the needs of library users.”

The rationale was repeatedly rejected by those at the rally.

“Right now, we’ve got a beautiful stand-alone facility that’s on publicly owned land. It’s on the corner of a bus route, it’s on a neighbourhood greenway where there’s a 30 km/h speed limit for cyclists and (it’s) central to all of the surrounding schools,” said Evan Krosney, co-founder of the Friends of West Kildonan Library Coalition.

Rachel Hunter, a Grade 5 teacher at École Belmont, said her students visit the library every two weeks, providing access to books that would be dearly missed if it relocates.

“Garden City (mall) is not central at all. This is the central location for our community. Students need to be able to access this on a regular basis,” she said.

Greg McFarlane, a Seven Oaks School Division trustee, also opposed the relocation.

“Our board of trustees stands firmly in opposition to the city’s proposal and plans to close this vital community resource.… Closing it would be a great loss for our students,” McFarlane said.

Krosney said opponents of the project are also concerned that placing a public library in a private building could reduce city control over the service. He also questioned whether anyone banned from entering the mall — a private space — would also lose access to the library.

On May 9, council’s property and development committee moved the lease proposal forward, after pushing for assurances that public access to the library wouldn’t be limited under those circumstances.

Coun. Cindy Gilroy, the committee’s chairperson, noted that decision followed a motion that would have required a full evaluation of keeping the current library open prior to other decisions on its fate. While that motion was defeated, Gilroy said the community concerns warrant attention.

“(This) older library is deep-rooted in the community… (and we must) make sure that we’re providing access to libraries,” Gilroy said, adding she believes population growth does warrant a library near the mall, but the city must avoid diminishing other library access in the process.

“As we’re growing, I think it’s time to build new, but not take away from aging communities,” said Gilroy.

If the city approves the plan, the new location could be ready in the fall or winter, potentially featuring an outdoor reading garden, the report says.

City council is expected to cast a final vote on the lease proposal on May 26.

Joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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