New Brunswick

Library board wants Moncton public library to stay put

The president of the Moncton Public Library Board says neither the city nor the board asked the province to move the Moncton library from the Blue Cross Building down town to the former Moncton High Building.

President Diane Ross says the board and the city prefer the existing location to former Moncton High

This is a drawing of what the former Moncton High building may look like if MH Renascence Inc is able to move forward with its plan to turn the 80-year-old building into a cultural centre. But the not-for-profit group wants the Moncton Library to be its anchor tenant, a move the library board opposes. (CBC)

The president of the Moncton Public Library Board says the board is not in favour of a proposal to move the library from the Blue Cross building downtown to the former Moncton High School building.

Dianne Ross said neither the city nor the board asked the province to move the library, which is being recommended by a private developer.

"Neither one was discontented with the space they are currently in. In fact they are very happy there," said Ross.

Last week, Moncton Centre MLA Chris Collins suggested the province could make a unilateral move to save the old Moncton High School, by moving provincial funding for the current library to the new proposed location. The provincial government has not responsed to inquiries from CBC News about whether the province can target its library funding in such a manner.

The proposal from the non-profit group MH Renaissance Inc. to transform the 80-year-old school building into a cultural centre requires an anchor tenant and the group wants that tenant to be the public library.

Ross told Information Morning Moncton Tuesday that it's time for the board to speak out about why it wants to keep the library where it is.

First, she says, the downtown library is the flagship of the provincial system and is in a perfect downtown location.

"It's the one the other libraries, 63 libraries in New Brunswick, look to for design ideas and for collection and programming ideas, It really is a beautiful space," said Ross. 

She said after 27 years, the current library is still considered "a beautiful, modern, [and] comtemporary" library.

Benefits of current space

Ross noted the two-floor, rectangular shape of the current location is preferable to the space for the library in the Moncton high proposal.

"It is three feet below ground level. It's a U-shaped corridor that is 65 wide at the maximum and will need support columns every 12 feet."

"It's obviously not a suitable space and it's not an improvement."

Ross said the board maintains the library shouldn't go anywhere unless it is to a bigger facility with improved services.

She said, the proposal for Moncton High will not be a larger space. 

The last time the library moved, it went from a small space on Highfield Street to its current location, which was five times larger, said Ross.

She said the other big issue is MH Renascence is not consulting with library staff or the board. Nor has it consulted with the public yet.

"Public consultation was promised by the New Brunswick government through the budget speech last February, before anything was going to happen to Moncton High School," Ross said.

Parking an issue say some supporters

Better parking is one issue that some, who are in favour of the move, have highlighted, but Ross said parking is not an issue now.

"We have paid parking for people who want to park in the lot behind the library. I have never been unable to get a spot in there," she said.

"We have 15,000 people, roughly, working downtown in Moncton who use the library extensively at noon hours every day of the week. That foot traffic will disappear at the Moncton High site because it is almost one kilometre from the current library location,"

Ross would like to see the former Moncton High building redeveloped and she hopes MH Renaissance can find a more suitable anchor tenant.

"The refurbishment of Moncton High School, and the relocation of the public library are two very different projects. One doesn't necessarily include the other," said Ross.

Ross also said she doesn't see the province going it alone on a new library, as Collins suggested it might do if the city doesn't go along with the plan.

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