Citing lack of funding, Montreal Children's Library to close 2 branches

As of Oct. 28, the privately run library's Vega branch, which moved into a new home on Pierce Street just a year ago, and its Antares branch, located inside of the Tyndale St-Georges Community Centre in Little Burgundy, will shut down.

Branches in Shaughnessy Village, Little Burgundy to close doors next week

Rachel Romano, an immigrant from Brazil who brings her three-year-old twins to the library in Little Burgundy, was upset when the closure was announced. The library will remain open after an outpouring of support. (Neil Herland/CBC)

The Montreal Children's Library — one of the oldest privately funded libraries in the city — has announced it will be closing two of its three branches next week due to a lack of funding.

On Oct. 28, the library's Vega branch, which moved into a new home on Pierce Street in Shaughnessy Village just a year ago, and its Antares branch, located inside of the Tyndale St-Georges Community Centre in Little Burgundy, will shut down.

The library will still operate its Polaris branch, housed inside the René Goupil Recreational Centre in Saint-Michel, because of the three, it receives the most visitors, executive director Helen Kyne explained on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
Helen Kyne, executive director of the Montreal Children's Library, wipes away tears as she explains why it will close 2 branches next week. (CBC)

It will also continue its parent-child Mother Goose program, a pre-literacy program for parents and children aged 0 to 3, held at various locations around the city.

"It's devastating," Kyne said of the looming closures, fighting tears. She said the branches are located in areas that are underserved, and visitors are often new immigrants who often come to think of the library as a second home.

The City of Montreal has supported the library, but it also relies on donations to survive, Kyne said.

It hasn't been able to raise the funds needed to keep all three branches running – the library is facing a $70,000 shortfall, and six out of 16 jobs will be cut.

"All our branches are located in areas where there's a great need for our services, so it's always sad to have to make these kinds of decisions," she said.

The library opened its first branch, now known as the Vega branch, in 1929.

It  also runs after school programs that include science programming and arts and crafts. The services are offered at no charge to its patrons.

A community cornerstone

Rachel Romano is a mother of three-year-old twins who says she visits the Antares branch, which has been operating out of Tyndale St-Georges since 1970, twice a week for at least three hours.

She said the library is an "amazing" place with a great librarian and volunteers.

"The kids come here, they read to each other. There's so much going on here. It's so important for the community," she said.
The Antares branch of the Montreal Children's Library first opened at the Tyndale St-Georges community centre in 1970. (CBC)

Kyne said the hope is their partners will step in and keep the branches open, but not under the library's name.

"We don't want everything to disappear. We've worked so, so hard," she said.

Liz Falco, the executive director of the Tyndale St-Georges community centre, said the library is a "gem" that receives 8,000 visits a year.

She said the centre's board of directors has decided to keep the library open through to the Christmas holidays, which would give them time to study a financial model for the future.

"There isn't a staff member, board member or community member that doesn't know this is not worth fighting for," she said.

With files from CBC's Neil Herland