Next fall, the central location of the Regina Public Library is expected to be abandoned and poised for demolition, but some library enthusiasts say that's a step in the wrong direction.
"That building should be refurbished … rather than tearing down the building," said Joanne Haveloc, chair of the Friends of the Regina Public Library.
The Friends of the Regina Public Library organization advocates for the maintenance and enhancement of the Regina Public Library, a heritage-designated building.
The Regina Public Library announced in a news release Wednesday that during a public meeting on Tuesday, its board of directors voted to relocate its central location earlier than planned because of "failing building infrastructure."
The move would open the space for demolition and the erection of a new building in its place beside Victoria Park. It would also mean spending more time than anticipated in the temporary home.
The plan to relocate has been in the works for months, but members of the Friends of the Regina Public Library continue to advocate that the relocation be a step toward renovating the current building and maintaining a historical centerpiece in the city's downtown instead of demolishing the 61-year-old building.
"It's great that people are engaged in that civic conversation; the board did make that decision last September so it is a decision that's been made and that we are moving forward with," said Jeff Barber, Regina Public Library director and CEO.
He added those oppositional beliefs have been expressed over several years, but the central library needs to be rebuilt to provide the library services to the city.
"In the board's consideration, they were definitely a part of that consideration, in the end in terms of the needs of the central library … has led to the decision that the central library needs to be rebuilt new."
Holding on to heritage
Friends of the Regina Public Library says it's been advocating alongside others to keep the "iconic example of modernist architecture" for years and will continue to advocate every step of the way as the Regina Public Library draws up blueprints for its new home.
Haveloc insists that regardless of the needed repairs, the building should remain standing and the relocation should be used to allow renovation.
"Libraries are about knowledge and history and the history is also in the building, not just in books," she said.
Haveloc has also taken issue with the decision-making process of the library as it progresses toward demolition, stating that it hasn't included the public enough and its meetings and agendas have been opaque.
She pointed to the agenda which discussed the relocation under the item "business continuity," and felt they didn't have the chance to formally oppose the demolition at that point in the process.
Barber responded to that by stating that item title was accurate and the public is able to make submissions regarding agenda items.
'Half as big as it needs to be': CEO
Barber said the library is aware of the heritage designation on the library, which will need to be dedesignated before its demolished.
In March, Regina city council approved the new central library — an expected $124 million bill without the cost of parking included, according to a 2020 estimate.
"Price fluctuations have been significant in the last year or two, so we know that we need to reexamine both the design planning and costs," Barber said.
Barber did not specify if city council is prepared to manage some of the bill but said the library remains in consultation with the city about the new building.
The alternative — a renovation to repair every system and meet code, and also add some design — was expected to cost about $50 million.
"The main challenge is that this building is half as big as it needs to be," he said.
RPL central's new home
The Regina Public Library is expected to take a year to a year-and-a-half to find a new location and move over its collections and services, though it's uncertain where it will land.
Barber said the library will be looking for about 65,000 square feet — though that could change depending on lease availability downtown — with higher-than-average load bearing to manage the weight of the books.
He also said its recent decision was spurred by the financial implications of waiting longer and having to invest more in a building they plan to demolish.
The central library location will continue to function as normal as the library searches for a new home, and Barber hopes to maintain services as it relocates.