Drive-thru book return at Pierrefonds-Roxboro's library sparks outrage at city hall

Just as Pierrefonds-Roxboro Library's $24.4-million library renovation project nears completion, a member of Montreal's executive committee is calling for a change of plans. At issue? The way citizens will be able to return their borrowed books.

With renovations nearly complete, borough Mayor Jim Beis rebukes call for a change of plans

The planned drive-thru book drop off at the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Library, currently under renovations, is much needed in a community that relies on cars, the mayor says. (Design Montréal)

Just as Pierrefonds-Roxboro Library's $24.4-million library renovation project nears completion, a member of Montreal's executive committee is calling for a change of plans.

At issue is the way citizens will be able to return their borrowed books.

On Monday, before city council approved another contract for the project, borough Mayor Jim Beis took a moment to discuss some of its highlights, including the planned drive-thru book return he billed as a first for the province.

This drew some laughter from the other side of the aisle and sparked outrage in Coun. Christine Gosselin, the executive committee member in charge of culture. She says she "choked" on her coffee when she learned of the plan.

"It's an aberration," Gosselin told Radio-Canada. "Culture prides itself on being the fourth pillar of sustainable development, so we wonder how, in 2018, we can integrate a drive-thru return service into a library."

Public libraries are funded by various levels of government, she said, and designed to be a place of exchange, meeting and socialization — a place where people enter the building and make discoveries.

Gosselin has called for the plans to be revisited only a few months before opening.

However, Beis said that's not going to happen as long as he is in office.

Changing the plans at this point is "absolute nonsense," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Tuesday

Drive-thru is needed, mayor says

The drive-thru drop off provides a much-needed service to parents with young kids in the car or those with reduced mobility, Beis said.

Plans for the multimillion-dollar library renovation have been in the works for a decade, he said, and they were approved by "all the stakeholders." The architectural concept even won an award in 2014 as it has all that a modern library demands, he said.

With its integrated cafe, interior garden and exterior terrace, the library serves as an assembly point for the community, he said.  

He said the size of the parking lot has been reduced to encourage people to come by public transport.

Before the renovations, people had to park to drop off books inside, often leaving their cars idling, he said. 

"The book drop is just an added benefit that we have for our community — a community that spans 30 kilometres wide — where we are dependant on our vehicles," he said. "We're doing this for our residents."

Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough Mayor Jim Beis says the newly renovated library should open in March. (Jean-François Vachon)

The library, under construction at 555 de Pierrefonds Blvd., is expected to open in March. And when it does open to the public, Beis said the drop-off won't keep people out.

"The majority of people that will come, will stay and benefit from the services that we offer," he said.