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LETTER: New Central Branch Library a necessity

With the age of the current location, renovations to meet modern codes would be an issue, says reader
2021-10-14 books PEXELS
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GuelphToday received the following letter to the editor from reader Morgan Dandie regarding the new main.

Dear editor

In response to Ryan Meunier's wish "to see the municipality focus on the needs of the city and not the wants, like the new library." I have to once again state, the New Guelph Public Library Central Branch is needed. Not only is it needed, it is already under construction; continuing to speak falsely about the New GPL Central Branch is unproductive.

The current location of the Central Branch is almost 60 years old "1965 - Construction of a new main library began... In November, our current main library opened its doors at 100 Norfolk Street." (GPL History) The current building is impossible to renovate to meet modern building code or Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) requirements.

Forget that the roof leaks so frequently that staff stopped putting ceiling tiles back. Forget that there is absolutely no space for the public to use for a meeting or presentation. Forget that staff all have to desk share and every possible space has been converted to staff use, including the stacks and those meeting rooms. Forget that there is no more electrical capacity in the building which precludes any needed system expansion because all administration is done through the Central Branch, including the servers for the entire Guelph Public Library System. And forget that the boiler system is 1950's technology that is so obsolete that replacement parts are no longer made.

Let's just talk current AODA standards and how the Central Branch does not meet two of them; there is no equitable access to drinking water or sanitary facilities. I was at the Central Branch last week and needed to take some medication. It was a very bad day for my chronic physical disability, I had forgotten my reusable water bottle and I was incapable of navigating stairs. Why does it matter that I couldn't take the stairs? There are no water fountains on the main floor. The only method of getting to a water fountain, for those incapable of navigating the staircases to the second floor or basement, is an antiquated elevator, that is often not operating due to age. I was in that elevator as an able-bodied person and it was a harrowing experience.

If a wheelchair, power chair or walker user needs to access the elevator, they must do so alone, without being able to turn around because the elevator is small and too narrow. Last week, staff gave me a small glass of water to take my medication, AND I did not have equitable access to drinking water, nor does anyone who cannot use stairs. What if I need to use the washroom? Same story - washrooms are only on the second floor and in the basement.

Something to note, the elevator is also used to move books among the three floors; staff place a loaded book cart in the elevator, press the button for the correct floor, and then walk the stairs to the necessary floor to meet the elevator when it arrives. This also demonstrates is that there is no opportunity for a person with limited mobility to hold a staff position at the Central Branch, thereby creating a possibility of a discrimination claim.

I beg journalists to stop quoting people who think there is value in continuing to flog this horse that has already left the barn and maybe to do an in-depth article of all the reasons I continue to write these letters about the necessity of the new main branch.

I ask citizens to please take a truly critical look at why you oppose the necessary creation of a just barely adequate Central Branch Library to sustain our current needs and provide the opportunity to grow with the city. Please remember, if you use any satellite branch of the Guelph Public Library System, or the Bookmobile, you are using the Central Branch. You may question how you are using the Central Branch - operation of all satellites and the Bookmobile is impossible without a Central Branch to do the administration required to have a system that serves the entire city.

And I ask everyone to come down to the main library at 100 Norfolk St. on Thursday, February 29th to celebrate our amazing GPL CEO Steve Kraft for his retirement on March 1st. Steve has been with GPL for 41 years! Maybe while you are there, take some time to learn more about the function of the Central Branch.

Morgan Dandie