Kildonan Library issue recalls Cornish debate


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/08/2022 (228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On May 26, Winnipeg city council officially nixed a plan to move the West Kildonan Library from a city-owned building in a walkable location on Jefferson Avenue to a rental space at Garden City mall. This move was celebrated by many, including the Friends of West Kildonan Library coalition. For Dennis Bayomi, who grew up in West Broadway but now lives in Westwood, it was reminiscent of a similar debate decades ago.

Bayomi notes that in the 1990s many community libraries were at risk of branch amalgamation and closure.

“Cornish (Library) was one of the libraries where there was a threat of closing,” he said.

Activism through groups such as the Friends of Cornish Library ensured the branch remained open. The library was designated a heritage structure in 1991 and recently completed renovations make Bayomi confident the branch is now safe from closure.

With cost of living, public safety, and potholes likely big issues come this year’s civic election on Oct. 26, Bayomi worries libraries will get short shrift.

“Yet, to me, without libraries we don’t have people who are smart enough to figure out how to patch a pothole or how to solve poverty and homelessness (…) without knowledge we have nothing,” he emphasized.

The Cornish Library lies in the ward of Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge–East Fort Garry), who is also chair of the standing policy committee on protection, community services and parks.

She said the committee leads policy discussion on libraries. The Winnipeg Public Library Board reports to the committee and recommends plans and priorities for the public library system. It is then up to councillors and the mayor’s budgetary working group to fund those plans.

Bayomi argues that pressure emerges to close or amalgamate existing libraries to serve fast-growing, newer areas if the city is intent on keeping the number of branches fixed at 22.

Rollins agreed that there can be tensions, with finite budgets, in balancing each community’s demand for library services. She added that there is a supportive culture around the Winnipeg Public Library system with groups like the Friends of Winnipeg Public Library.

“I would like to acknowledge the Library Board and the Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library. Friends are committed to literacy and community (with my work on library issues) I stand on the shoulders of giants,” she said.

Dylon Martin

Dylon Martin
West Broadway community correspondent

Dylon Martin is a community correspondent for West Broadway.

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