Central Library Questions from June 24, 2008

Could you clarify the motions to Council?

Motion #1:   That HRM Council approve the Central Library in principle.

In its simplest form, this action indicates an intent to permit further investigation into the creation of the project.  To not approve the motion means termination of the project.  No further investigation will occur.

Without approval in principle, the Central Library has no status.  It cannot be placed on infrastructure funding lists for funding by other levels of government, no fundraising can be initiated, HRM staff will not prepare a financial plan strategy and a capital budget cannot be submitted.

Approval in principle does not bind Council to construct the facility, nor does it commit Council to allocate funds.  It does allow the project to proceed to the next phase.

Last year, Council approved designation of the site at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Queen Street for the Central Library and directed HRM staff to effect the land transfer.

Motion #2:   That HRM Council direct HRM staff to examine funding options and develop a financial plan for the project.

This motion permits staff to investigate further the possible implementation strategies, consider the financial capacity of the municipality and other corporate priorities, and to develop a financial plan.  Options and recommendations can then be brought back to Council at which point Council can decide to move ahead with the project, amend the project or terminate the project.

Motion #3:   Direct the HRL Board to begin a Request for Proposal process for the provision of architectural services for the new Central Library.

To move forward and avoid losing 2008/09, the Library could complete the architect selection process up to the point of contract signature.  A contract would not be signed without Council’s final approval of the Central Library and the financial plan to be developed by HRM staff.  No money is required in this fiscal year.  Architect selection is a lengthy process typically requiring an open tender Request for Qualifications from architectural firms, evaluation and shortlist development.  Requests for Proposal would then be issued to the shortlist.  Proposals would be evaluated and final short listed firms would be interviewed and scored to select the architect.

If this process were undertaken in 2008/09, building design could begin as soon as the 2009/10 budget is passed.  If it is not done another year may be lost.  Time is critical given the state of the Spring Garden Road Library.

What is the Library’s donor status?

The Library is a registered non-profit charitable organization and provides tax receipts for donations over $10.00.

The Library has completed legal review to establish a Foundation to undertake corporate and public fundraising for the Central Library.  Documents have not been filed because of the uncertainty surrounding the project.  This uncertainty has also impacted recruitment of Foundation leadership.

Will a partnership with the Nova Scotia Archives be considered?

The Library already works in partnership with the Archives.  The primary function of the Archives is to collect and preserve documents and records for the entire province.  The Library’s local history and genealogical service is focused on the municipality and provides instruction and assistance to the general public.  Access is available evenings and weekends when the Archives is closed.  The Library also provides supporting collections that may be borrowed while the Archives contains original documents that can only be used at the Archives.

Will there be a requirement for public art in the Central Library?

The HRM Cultural Plan recommends inclusion of public art in public buildings.  The Library supports this recommendation.  Typically, an art budget is 1% of the total hard construction costs.  Based on the Cost Analysis (p. 41 of the consultant’s report), a sum of $451,700 would be appropriate.

What is the size of the building footprint?

The land approved in principle by Council last year at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Queen Street for the Central Library is 410 feet by 160 feet for a total of 65,600 square feet or 1.5 acres.

HRM by Design’s proposed Downtown Halifax Secondary Planning Strategy guidelines recommend a 70 foot (21 metres) set back from Spring Garden Road to make the building flush with the School of Architecture and Planning, Dalhousie University.  The calculation of 1.5 acres includes this setback.  Without the setback, the land is 260 feet by 160 feet, for a total of 41,600 square feet or 0.96 acres.

For planning purposes, the consultants assumed a building size of 245 feet by 135 feet or 33,000 square feet as the total footprint to fit into the site.

What is the building height restriction on the site and can this be overridden?

The HRM by Design Downtown Halifax Secondary Planning Strategy recommends a height restriction of 90 ft (27 metres) on the site. 

This would accommodate up to 5 floors, depending on ceiling height.  Height could also be considered as a plan amendment which is possible if there is a clear public benefit to be achieved.

Will the Library undertake fundraising?  What percentage of the total cost requirement will be raised?

The Library will definitely undertake a fundraising capital campaign.  A feasibility study completed by KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.) tested our capacity to raise $10 million.  Participants interviewed were not unanimous that this target could be achieved.  The following elements were identified as concerns:

  1. the difficulty in recruiting fundraising leadership (This could change if the project is approved.);
  2. lack of visible support from HRM; and
  3. competition from other high profile organizations with campaigns underway.

The Library scored highly on its public image, perceived value to the community and service quality.  An appropriate target may be in the range of $2 - $3 million, comparable to the Mainland Commons Recreation Centre.

What is the Library doing to improve hours of service throughout the region?

The Library can only provide service enhancements when Council approves additional operating funds.  Hours of service were reduced in 1997/98 due to an operating budget shortfall.  Since then, the library has submitted operating budget proposals and business cases each year to restore hours and improve hours.  Whenever Council supports a request and approves funding, hours are increased.

Better service hours were initiated at Tantallon and Keshen Goodman libraries when these facilities were opened.  Alderney Gate and Keshen Goodman libraries were opened on Mondays in 2002 and 2001 respectively to ensure service access at a resource library in Dartmouth and Halifax.  In 2007/08, funds were approved to expand service at the Dartmouth North Library.

In the 2008/09 budget process, the Library’s budget submission included expanded hours of service at Musquodoboit Harbour and this proposal appeared on the Additional Resources Required List for Council consideration.  No support was received.

Service hours expansion requires additional staffing.

Why is a café included?

The Spring Garden Road / Queen Street Land use Plan specifies that 7,000 square feet of retail space be provided at ground level in the Central Library.  The consultants allocated 1,000 square feet for a café in response to unanimous public demand voiced at all the public consultation meetings.  It is interesting to note that Woodlawn residents made the same request in that consultation process.

People do not consider a café a “frill,” but an important amenity to enhance their library experience.  Cafes are a standard feature in all new public facilities and bookstores.  They provide a revenue stream, a place for people to relax or to take a break from study and research and a comfortable place for parents to wait for children’s programs to end.  People also appreciate not having to pack up and leave the building to get a coffee.

A library café does not compete with other businesses just as libraries do not compete with bookstores.   The proliferation of cafes in the downtown core proves the point since every café has its own clientele, atmosphere and peak service hours.

Is the land value included in the project cost?

No.  The building site is part of the larger land transfer within HRM between HRM and the Province.  When HRM completes this negotiation, HRM will own the land.  In a municipal project, the value of the land is not added to the project.  For example, the Mainland Commons Recreation centre cost is exclusive of land value.

It should also be noted that the building and site of the current Spring Garden Road Library is owned by the Municipality and will be available for alternate use, providing HRM with a possible source of revenue to contribute to project costs.

Will branch service be reduced to put resources into the Central Library?

No.  Branch service will be improved and strengthened rather than reduced.  Hours of service, staffing levels and collections will not be changed.  The Library is committed to maintaining and improving community service.  This year, the Woodlawn Library will triple in size; the Captain William Spry Library will undergo major renovation.  Future plans include upgrade to other facilities.

What is the value of a Central Library to rural districts?

Library service is delivered through 14 branches holding local collections; mobile service which brings rotating collections to areas remote from any of these branches; and services which deliver books by mail or to residents who are homebound.  Branch buildings vary in size, staffing levels, and collection capacities, but centrally planned services through them assure consistent quality and customer-centred public access to regional collections, internet services and a broad spectrum of programming.  A Central Library provides cost effective service to all while avoiding the costly duplication of housing for collections neither needed nor wanted locally.  Therefore, a collection-rich Central Library translates into more local resources:  all locations’ collections are accessible to all library users, without regard to the borrower’s actual location, because the borrower can request timely local delivery of any materials through the online catalogue. Books requested by a borrower in Sheet Harbour or Hubbards are delivered to him or her locally, because those materials are available from larger collections.

We already have a number of necessarily centralized services which are used heavily by rural as well as urban and suburban branches, but which are less visible than books and DVDs.  The library’s internet services—which include public access computers at all branches, as well as a resource-rich web site, and the catalogue of materials—must be centralized for technical as well as cost efficiency reasons.  Books by Mail, the program that specifically serves rural library users, also must be centralized in order to address its requirement for postage metering, etc.  These are just two of several essential components of library service which are currently each centralized but as a group cannot be brought together, due to space constraints, without a Central Library to house them.

Specialized services, including those for children, teens, older adults, and those who cannot access a physical library building, are available to all throughout the region, including to those who find the rural branches to be most accessible.  Local staff is supported centrally so that they may customize programs and other services to best meet local needs and interests.

Was the Central Library Building Program Report worth it?  What did we get for our money?

Council commissioned this report to determine the space requirements for the Central Library and to determine a realistic cost estimate.  Without this information, Council was unable to make an informed decision.

Council needed an objective report, rather than a staff report, and a clear understanding of what the public wants and needs in library service, all of which is documented in the report.  The report fulfills all objectives.  It details what services should be in the Central Library, allocates space to functions, and provides a preliminary cost estimate.  The report includes implementation strategies for further consideration by HRM staff and Council in the next phase.

HOK Canada is a large multifaceted planning and architectural firm with an impeccable national and international reputation.  Robert Marshall, principal consultant, brought knowledge of HRM to the project, having done the site planning for the Keshen Goodman Library and completed an earlier report on the need for a Central Library while employed by Jack Diamond and Associates.  Susan Kent, former Director of the new York and Los Angeles Public Libraries, brought a wealth of information about library facilities and service directions that was invaluable.

At the outset, we anticipated a building of 170,000 square feet.  Through rigorous work sessions with Library staff, the consultants challenged all of our assumptions which lead to reduction in size to 108,896 square feet.  Staff areas and staff were reduced to the minimum.  Trends in collection size and technology led to further refining of space allocations and new ways of effectively delivering service.

The result is a modest and customer-focused building that can contribute to HRM’s progressive future.

Has parking been included?

Parking in the downtown core is a municipal issue that requires study, with or without a Central Library.  The Library site is currently a surface parking lot containing 111 parking spaces.  The land is owned by the Province and leased to Dalhousie University.  It is understood that these parking spaces would need to be replaced in the area.  An agreement will have to be worked out between HRM and the Province.

Underground parking is an ideal situation but an expensive one.  Consultants recommended one level underground accommodating 103 parking spaces.  Cost is estimated at $7,148,800. 

Similarly, if HRM decided to develop the existing surface lots adjacent to the commercial / retail corridor, a parking solution will be required.

Parking requires further investigation by HRM.

Why are program and meeting spaces, including an auditorium, in the Building Program?

There is enormous demand on the Library from the public, from business and from our community partners for program and meeting spaces.  This service compliments the Library’s cultural role within the community.  Through these spaces the Library makes information and entertainment accessible to the community and provides community partners such as the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative and JazzEast with a venue to create cultural events and showcase local talent.

A mixture of various size spaces for performance, author readings, lectures, workshops, public meetings, children’s programs, English as a Second language and literacy tutoring have been included, provinding a community focal point.

An auditorium is a standard feature in all central libraries.  A 250-seat facility is planned.

The problem now is that this space does not exist in the downtown core.  Current facilities are too large, too small or too expensive for community groups to use.

The Saint Mary’s University threatre has 600 seats; the proposed school auditorium planned for Citadel High School includes 825 seats.  At the Neptune Theatre, Fountain Hall has 479 seats (corporate rate, $1,200; non-profit rate $600 plus expenses for lighting, labour, box office, set-up, etc.)  The Studio Threate has 163-200 seats (corporate rate $600.00 + costs; non-profit rate $300 + costs).

The Library regularly turns people away due to the absence of space.

The community needs accessible, centrally located space at reasonable rates throughout the day, evenings and weekend.  The Library needs space for its own programming.