By Nathan Caddell
Heads were shaking and emotions were unfiltered at the Public Library Consultation at City Hall on Jan. 18.
The packed house protested the proposed new central library site of 557 Wellington St. in Lebreton Flats, cheering whenever Centretown was suggested as the new location.
Councillors Mathieu Fleury (Rideau-Vanier), Tobi Nussbaum (Rideau-Rockcliffe), Catherine Mckenney (Somerset) and David Chernushenko (Capital), all of whom will see the library move away from their districts, led the discussion. They heard questions from the crowd and conversed with a three-person panel that included University of Ottawa professor Elizabeth Kristjansson, Ecology Ottawa executive director Graham Saul and retired architect Tony Griffiths.
Noticeably absent, however, were the two men who have led the charge for a new central library in Lebreton Flats – Tim Tierney, the Ottawa Public Library Board chair (and Beacon Hill-Cyrville councillor), and Mayor Jim Watson.
The biggest cheer of the night came when Griffiths rallied against the proposed site, saying, “I believe [the site] is too remote, too far from the city’s core and should be rejected out of hand.”
There was loud support in the crowd for moving the library to Confederation Park, but Saul noted, “The problem with Confederation Park is that we’re using it.”
The audience was later given clickers to rate their preferences for different questions that appeared on the screen. In two unsurprising developments, the technology proved a challenge and a rough sketch of the city’s urban core was the unanimous crowd favourite for a new central library location.
When asked what a possible Centretown branch library should include if the Lebreton site is approved, the answer “All of the above”, which included social, technological and literary focuses, was the overwhelming favourite.
The next Ottawa Public Library Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 31.