Is it outrageous to spend $245 million on a library in this day and age? The conversation surrounding the new Calgary Central Library (scheduled to open 2018) seems to be primarily concerned with determining the answer to this question. In short, my answer to this question is simply no.
It’s no secret that a large portion of the Canadian population does not see the enduring value of public libraries; more so, it is no secret that a large portion of Canadians do not think about the value of public libraries within Canadian communities at all. As a result, when the discussion surrounding libraries and public funding is brought into the mainstream media most people are surprised that tax payers should be contributing to anything as out-moded as a library. It’s a sad state of affairs and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Canadians have lost the ability to understand the value libraries bring to revitalizing and connecting communities. The new Calgary library does just this, and it may be among the most important purposes it serves. Providing the community with a centre where intellectual freedom is valued and community space is available fosters a collective community voice. This collective community voice can be the first step in the creation of community organizations and advocacy groups that provide citizens with support and ensure their needs are being met.
Libraries play an important role in Canadian communities by acting as a bridge in so many ways. They provide the community with the intellectual life which fosters change, education, and innovation. Can we, as a society, really afford to advocate against an investment this crucial?