Cape Breton groups join together in push for new Sydney library

A recently formed community group in Sydney, N.S., says a new library would be a game changer for the area.

Public meeting was held Thursday night to discuss potential new library

A new library proposed as part of a larger development on the waterfront in Sydney, N.S., could cost between $18 million and $28 million. (George Mortimer/CBC)

A recently formed community group in Sydney, N.S., says a new library would be a game changer for the area.

Four organizations are working together with the aim of replacing the aging James McConnell Memorial Library, which opened in 1959.

Members of the Cape Breton Partnership, Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, Sydney Waterfront District and Victoria County recently travelled to Halifax and Truro to learn about the role new libraries have played in those communities.

Details from fact-finding trip

The group held a public meeting in Sydney Thursday night to reveal their findings.

Kathleen Yurchesyn, CEO of the Sydney and Area Chamber or Commerce, said a new library would be a big boost for economic development.

"They saw that the moment that location was announced in Truro and the same in Halifax as well," she said.

I had no idea what we were missing here.- Michelle Wilson, executive director of the Sydney Waterfront District

Michelle Wilson, executive director of the Sydney Waterfront District, said she's excited by the possibilities for Sydney.

"Research has shown that libraries are that all important third place, the place other than work or home where people spend their time," she said.

"In Halifax and Truro, there are maker spaces, children's play rooms, games rooms, historical collections among other things. I had no idea what we were missing here in Sydney until I visited Halifax and Truro."

Proposed library could be part of a larger development

Harbour Royale Development Limited is proposing to develop the Sydney waterfront, including an apartment building and library among other features. It's part of a two-phase $150-million project.

Project manager Jim Wooder said the next steps in the library project include public design consultation.

Proponents of a new library say public engagement is key to the proposal's success. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Cape Breton regional council voted earlier this month to begin the process of applying for government funding for the project.

 "We're advancing on multiple fronts, so we're very hopeful that the apartment building is going to advance in 2019," said Wooder. "It would be fantastic if the library funding could come into play with both projects starting at the same time."

So far, there haven't been any financial commitments from any level of government, including CBRM for a new library.

About the Author

George Mortimer


George Mortimer is a longtime reporter in Cape Breton.