Downtown councillors speak out about central library location (Jennifer McIntosh, Ottawa East News)

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney and Rideau-Rockliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum want residents to start thinking about how they’d evaluate potential locations for a new central library.

As the library board prepares for public consultations, McKenney said she wants people to consider some elements from a survey that was commissioned by the board.

Figures show that 68 per cent of residents who use the existing central library walk there.

“The Centretown neighbourhood is among the densest in all of Ottawa; more than 23,000 people live within a kilometre of the current site at Laurier and Metcalfe,” McKenney wrote in the co-authored letter to residents. “How that population can be served by a new location within walking distance will therefore be an important criterion.”

Another important statistic is that 25 per cent of users walk to the library from their place of work, McKenney said, adding a site to the west of Bronson Avenue, such as at Lebreton Flats, wouldn’t be convenient for current users to access by walking.

“Today very few people get there by transit,” McKenney said. “That could change, but it’s something to consider about a downtown library.”

McKenney said she wants people thinking about these issues as the board prepares to go out to the public.

That could happen in the spring or early summer, McKenney said.

“It’s a tight timeline if we are going to get shovels in the ground by 2018,” she said.

Library board chair and Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney said the library board recently held an ad hoc meeting on the status of the file, but it’s still premature to talk about possible locations.

“She has to do what she can to advocate for her residents, but we aren’t at that point yet,” he said of McKenney.

Tierney said the board voted for two tracks at the last board meeting – one where a standalone facility is built and one in which the city library teams up with Library and National Archives for a facility.

He said he expects staff to come back at the next meeting with a plan for public consultation.

“I want to fire up the tour bus and get out there and do public consultation,” he said.

Tierney said while the city is open to working with potential developers of the Lebreton Flats site, the process to choose an appropriate location of a new main branch has to run independently.

He added that the inclusion of a library in the two Lebreton Flats proposals that the National Capital Commission is currently evaluating has “muddied the waters” and given people the impression it’s a done deal.

“Nothing’s further from the truth,” he said. “We aren’t even at the RFP (requests for proposals) part of the process. There’s quite a ways to go.”

The next library board meeting is scheduled for April 12.

Source: Ottawa East News