HALIFAX – A group of 15-odd people interested in the future of the Spring Garden Memorial Library building shuffled into a multi-purpose room in the Bloomfield Centre on Tuesday, hoping to share their views on how best to use the soon-to-be-bookless space.
The library, built as a memorial for Canada’s war dead in 1951, will eventually transfer its tomes to a new central library, to be built across the road on Queen Street. But while the new library’s future seems certain, the use of the old building appears anything but.
Councillor Dawn Sloane, who oversaw Tuesday’s meeting, wants to see the building used as a multi-use archive/museum/civics space to provide “proper storage for the archive collection, public accessibility to the collection, (while retaining the) monument building in (the) monument district.”
“We’ve been here since 1749, we do have a history,” said Sloane. “Showing a sense of pride in place, and getting people to take pride in their city is something that we need to do. I think you heard that around that table tonight.”
While there seemed to be a consensus among those in attendance that the building would be ideal, at least location wise, for a civics-oriented museum space, there were some concerns about working with a building that is not in the best shape – it’s 58 years old, and has had mold, heating and cooling problems in the past.
Sloane admits the building’s condition – as well as the cost of renovations – will be obstacles, but wants more information, including a feasibility study. “We know that (the building) is hot in the summer and cold in the winter,” she said. “And we have to figure that out. Is it because of the addition that was added on in the 70’s that might have changed the way the building breathes? We’re not sure. But that’s why I want to get those kind of reports.”
Concerns were also raised at the meeting about trying to do too much with too little space, how best to honour the building’s heritage as a war memorial, and its suitability to house museum pieces.
Richard Crooks, who started the facebook group Halifax needs a History Museum, said he understands the concerns, but noted overall response for the idea has been encouraging .
“There’s been some honest concerns like those expressed here tonight,” said Crooks. “But everything has been very positive. This is something that needs to be done.”
Crooks said the museum could be instrumental in restoring Haligonians’ pride in their city, which he believes was lost after the 1996 amalgamation.
“We’ve got (the Halifax) archives sitting in Dartmouth, in the Burnside Industrial Park, that no one can get to. We’re a city that was a city, and became a corporate entity, and we’ve lost our civic pride. We have a building that needs to be rescued if not from the wrecking ball if not from Chapters,” he said, referring to attempt to sell the location to the popular book chain.
“We need to regain our city pride, and one way to do that is to showcase it to the world as to what Halifax is all about– our history, our present, our past.”
photo by Kaytethinks