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New library would solve space crunch - mayor

St. Albert Place is just too small, say some city officials, but Mayor Nolan Crouse has come up with a solution that may solve the space crunch for the library, administration and museum. On Monday night, Crouse unveiled his vision for downtown St.

St. Albert Place is just too small, say some city officials, but Mayor Nolan Crouse has come up with a solution that may solve the space crunch for the library, administration and museum.

On Monday night, Crouse unveiled his vision for downtown St. Albert and suggested that the library be moved from city hall to a new building across the street that would also have office space for administration. That would allow the MusĂ©e HĂ©ritage Museum to move into the library’s current location — effectively killing three birds with one stone.

“We have a need for more library space, we have a need for more staff space and we have a need for more museum space, and I think we can accomplish it with one building,” Crouse explained. “You’ve got to solve all of these issues at once, because you can’t solve one because it only raises new questions with the others.”

Crouse envisions a 60,000-sq.-ft. library on the vacant lot on the corner of St. Thomas Street and St. Anne Street. The new library would be double the size of the existing one in St. Albert Place.

The current library was built to house a collection of 100,000 books for a population of 50,000 — figures it surpassed in 2000. Library board chair Kelly Aisenstat said the space issue has been a problem for some time.

“We have been talking for a while about needing some more space, so we had been heading down the path for a branch library,” Aisenstat said.

Last year, the library narrowed its search for a new branch location to three sites — the Badger lands north of Villeneuve Road, a site directly north of Erin Ridge and another in South Riel near the future Hole’s greenhouse and commercial development.

The city estimated it would cost $20 million to build a branch library, and the project was put on hold until it could come up with the money. An update on the proposed branch library is due back to council later this month.

Aisenstat said he’s not averse to having a larger centralized library opposed to a second location elsewhere in the city, as long as it meets the criteria the board recommends.

“The thing that I would be looking for in all of this reporting is whether some of those criteria that we had hoped for in a branch library would be met by moving across the street,” said Aisenstat.

The criteria include improved access points, pick-up and drop-off locations, delivery locations and parking.

According to Crouse, it would cost more to build a branch library because the city would have to buy the land and double its operating costs to have two locations open instead of just one.

“There’s a lot of pressure by many factions in the community, including the library board, to have a branch library, so it avoids the cost of that land,” Crouse said.

The mayor said one larger location would meet the city’s requirements for another 40 years, and create more office space for staff currently crammed into city hall. The mayor also said he would consider a public-private-partnership (P3) funding model, but doesn’t expect the project to begin until 2013 at the earliest.

Coun. Roger Lemieux said he supports the mayor’s vision for downtown, and is aware something eventually will have to be built to accommodate the space needs of organizations in city hall.

“We should have one library in the downtown core and make it big enough to accommodate the build out of St. Albert, which is 110,000 people,” Lemieux said, who’s also council’s representative on the library board.

“We will need a library someday, no doubt, and we want to leave city hall intact, and the museum needs to expand, and it all just makes sense.”