Nova Scotia

Sydney library a priority for most mayoral candidates

The aging building has air quality and accessibility problems.

The 50-year-old McConnell Library needs millions in upgrades or a new building

People say the library is long overdue for upgrades. (Yvonne Leblanc-Smith/CBC )

Four of the five candidates in the mayoral race in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality say they will make the 50-year-old James McConnell Memorial Library a priority if elected. The aging building has air quality and accessibility problems.

There's no air conditioning in the building and only some parts of the library are wheelchair accessible.

Architects said upgrading or replacing the building could cost between $9 and $12 million. Meanwhile, the library is offering more programs than ever and usage is up.

"I was shocked and amazed and impressed to find out that there's 500 people roughly going through there a day by their account," said Glenn Jessome, one of the candidates. Jessome said he would need to work with the library's board to find a solution.

Rankin MacSween believes in taking a similar approach.

"Perhaps the existing location, maybe there is a way to make that work, I don't know. I haven't been close enough to that file, but wherever it goes, I think that piece of infrastructure for me is a great fit in the core," said MacSween

Cecil Clarke has a slightly different vision. He wants to keep the library downtown but he sees putting the complex on the waterfront.

"If we are going on our own, I think that we will have to look at upgrades, but I don't think we have to go on our own. I think we can work with other levels of government and community partners to achieve something much better for our community for the long term," said Clarke.

Wilf Isaac says he's all for libraries, but is reluctant to spend millions. He's also resistant to private investment in a public institution.

Elizabeth Barrie didn't weigh-in on the question.

People who work and use the library say whether it's a new building or upgrades, a solution is overdue.