The current library opened in 1995. Port Moody Public Library photo. Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Plans for a new public library in Port Moody have been taken off the shelf. 

Replacing the tiny library has been on and off the books over the past 15 years, but on Tuesday city council decided to put the project back on Port Moody’s five-year capital plan.

“We know we are too small,” said Daphne Herberts, chair of the Port Moody Public Library board. “We struggle with difficult choices. . . . There are many services we cannot provide which are considered standard at other libraries.”

The decision to revisit the project was made following a delegation to council by Herberts and library director Marc Saunders.

The current library opened in 1995 and is situated in a corner of city hall.

Plans to replace the facility date back to 2008 but the project lost priority to a new firehall and was eventually removed from the capital plan in 2010.

A 2017 report recommended the city build a new facility after finding it was only 43 percent of the size needed given population and usage rates.

Port Moody requires a library that is 42,500 square feet, which could serve community needs until at least 2042, the report concluded. The current library is 12,500 sq. ft. 

The findings led to the library’s inclusion in a 2018 public opinion survey regarding the future of the old firehall lands, but it was narrowly defeated.

The standard per capita square footage of a B.C. library is between 0.7 and 1 sq. ft. Port Moody’s library has a per capita square footage of 0.37, which is the second smallest among its peer group (populations between 19,000 and 72,000), Herberts said.

“We have half the minimal,” she said. 

Saunders added he’s spoken to a number of consultants since the 2017 report, who suggested a new facility would require more space than the current standard.

Port Moody’s library has more program participants per square foot than any other library in its peer group, but they have to turn people away because of the limited space, according to Herberts.

She said the space squeeze bleeds into many other areas as well. 

Its physical collections are 20 percent too small, there’s limited seating and book sale space, no bookable training labs or meeting rooms or collaborative work spaces.

Herberts said overcrowding leads to frequent complaints regarding noise during storytime programming, and they don’t have room for a separate early learning center.

“Limited space means we are unable to innovate or experiment in a way other libraries do,” Herberts said.

The delegation asked for the new facility to be built on the old fire hall lands.

Coun. Diana Dilworth asked if there were any other locations which could be appropriate, recalling that a number of sites were previously studied.

Saunders said the library board would be open to other locations, but many of the lands examined in the past have been developed.

“We really do want to be closely located to the Inlet Center campus,” Saunders said. “The board has always felt very strong about that.”

Heberts stressed the board was not looking for a second library branch or an expansion of the current facility, stating these would be unfeasible in previous studies.

Dilworth called it a “bold ask,” but said that she thought it was time the city revisit the project.

Coun. Kyla Knowles said she was swayed by the presentation, and was previously against consideration of this project, due to budgetary and land constraints.

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. And I think you’ve changed my mind tonight,” Knowles said.

Coun. Amy Lubik said she thought it was important to have planning in place to take advantage of any federal or provincial grant opportunities that may arise.

Council decided to forward the project to a future strategic planning committee meeting.

By Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 12, 2023 at 11:39

This item reprinted with permission from   Tri-Cities Dispatch   Coquitlam, British Columbia

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