Council in favour of 10-year plan to improve libraries

Halifax Central Library was just the beginning of changes to the public library system

Terrence Gallagher, left, and Åsa Kachan, right, of Halifax Public Libraries spoke to council Tuesday about upcoming improvements to libraries in the HRM.   Caitlin Leonard

Libraries in Bedford, Halifax and Dartmouth are the top priorities of a $58-million improvement plan for the Halifax Regional Municipality’s library branches.

Terrence Gallagher, director of finance and facilities, and Åsa Kachan, chief executive officer, appeared before regional council Tuesday to present the plan.

“We really are required to update our facilities on a continuing basis,” said Kachan. “They’re in varying states of repair. Some meet the communities’ needs better than others.” 

The HRM has a 10-year capital plan that includes $58 million for libraries. The bulk of the money will be spent on large improvement projects; the top five priorities are the Bedford, Halifax North, Dartmouth North, Keshen Goodman and Alderney Gate libraries.

However, Gallagher said all 14 branches will benefit.

“We’ll work project by project as we continue to work on priority areas,” he said. “Particular changes need to be made to modernize spaces.” 

The plans for changes to all 14 libraries will focus on buildings that allow for book lending and traditional services, but also offer spaces that foster community building.

Kachan said improvements and renovations to Halifax libraries are also needed as the HRM grows over the next 20 years. The presentation brought before council detailed population growth in Halifax that’s expected to rise to 467,500 in 2026, from 425,800 in 2016.

Councillors were favourable in their comments and questions during the presentation.

“(This has) really expanded how we think about libraries,” said Coun. Lisa Blackburn.

“Always happy when I get to watch a library presentation,” said Coun. Lindell Smith. “Overall I’m happy to see that this is moving forward.”

Kachan was appointed the head of Halifax Public Libraries in September 2014, a few months before the opening of the Halifax Central Library branch on Spring Garden Road. She said the response to that library has been “profound.”

“You see the community connecting in ways that happen just because the space was there, and it was free, and it was available to all. So it is, in a sense, democracy at work,” she said.

The plan to improve libraries is now in the planning stages, compiling facilities’ baseline information.

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