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Letter to the Editor: Centralized library branch would be transformative

Thunder Bay city councillor says a modern library would be a vital resource for employment, training, and research
Brian Hamilton Aug 2022
Coun. Brian Hamilton speaks at a Thunder Bay city council meeting on Aug. 8, 2022. (Ian Kaufman, TBnewswatch)

A new centralized public library would have a transformative impact on our region. Currently, Thunder Bay is served by four neighbourhood libraries strategically spread across the city to cater to diverse demographics. While this configuration generally serves Thunder Bay, it requires modernization.

A modern library goes beyond books, serving as a literacy and science hub, a vital resource for employment, training, and research, a children’s center, a welcoming space for older adults, a haven for curious minds, and a refuge during long winters. The modern library is a great community center, promoting inclusivity and free access to all.

Although Thunder Bay’s library system is functional, it is facing challenges. Several critical issues need to be addressed to optimize its service to the community. 

Of primary concern is safety. Being a truly inclusive space can be challenging as libraries countrywide have become a catch-all for mental health and social issues. A modern, single floor library could best provide a robust security framework that best protects its patrons and staff.

Then, there is the issue of space. The current library collaborates with more than four dozen partner organizations but lacks the capacity to host their services effectively. Expanding the library would provide organizations with a visible presence and offer greater value to library users, enhancing the well-being and opportunities of residents.

Of equal importance is accessibility. Both Brodie and Waverley libraries are housed in outdated buildings that struggle to meet modern accessibility standards. They also have limited parking and operating hours. Establishing a branch at Intercity Mall would comply with current AODA guidelines, encourage increased usage through extended hours, and be conveniently located on a transit hub.

The library board proposes maintaining several neighbourhood branches to ensure comprehensive coverage across the city. Options range from retaining only Waverley and Mary J. Black to keeping all branches in varying capacities.

The Thunder Bay Public Library has the potential to become much more than it currently is. A new centralized location would benefit Thunder Bay residents, regional partners, area businesses and budding entrepreneurs. As well, extended hours would provide improved access to library services for Thunder Bay’s working families, students and visitors.

I wholeheartedly support the proposal to create a new centralized public library at Intercity Mall. The decision on which current branches to maintain will be the subject of a lively debate at city hall in the coming months and ultimately be decided on by the community at-large. Though this project would carry an up front capital cost it would provide a substantial service enhancement for residents while ensuring the long term sustainability of our library system.

This is an important project and I encourage residents to reach out to their councillors with their thoughts and concerns.

Brian Hamilton is a Thunder Bay city councillor representing the McKellar ward

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