The location of public libraries in mall settings is problematic for a number of reasons. By associating the public library with the retail sector it can create the impression that it is just another store where customers can purchase goods and services. Public libraries are not a transactional service and do not have customers. The people who use libraries are stakeholders and communal owners as taxpayers. They have a stake in where and how the library operates. But some of them are not welcome or comfortable in mall settings.
Another problem with associating libraries and retail is that it perpetuates the myth that you need money to use libraries.
Under my leadership TBPL was the first public library in Canada to abolish fees and charges. This was in keeping with the strategic plan commitment to mitigate homelessness and poverty, which are enduring and increasing challenges in Thunder Bay.
Ultimately, where public libraries are located should be governed by the objectives and values of the strategic plan. Anti racism and supporting those with the greatest needs must continue to be at the heart of TBPL.
John Pateman is a former CEO and chief librarian of the Thunder Bay Public Library.