Regina’s central library is in bad shape and in dire need of not just a renovation but a complete rebuild according to Kevin Saunderson, Executive Director of services and innovation at Regina Public Library.
The Regina library board took the media on a tour of the Regina Public Library’s downtown location, Tuesday, pointing out its deteriorating conditions.
Accessibility issues like ramps not up to date with latest codes, safety issues like the risk of granite panels falling off the exterior of the building and an ageing heating system are just some of the issues identified by the library board.
“Its a little challenging especially from the accessibility perspective the ramp on the exterior of the building does not meet current building codes,” Saunderson said.
The central library was built in 1962 that’s 60 years ago and was made to serve a population of 110,000 but according to the 2021 census Regina’s population in was more than double at 249,000 people.
There are two boilers that were installed when the building was first made, out of which only one is currently working, Saunderson said that they are so old that they often cannot find replacement parts or the people to manage the control systems.
The tubes through which the heated water passes to keep the building warm have been corroding and cracking, he said that they’ve lost tubes in both boilers and are at a point where if they lose any more even that one boiler won’t be usable.
Saunderson said the metal used to attach panels in the building were made with regular steel and not stainless steel which has been eroding and becoming weaker as the weather changes and water gets in there leading to rusting and degradation.
He added that the windows were installed backwards which has cased damage over time and there in terms of insulation the windows don’t do much either.
Saunderson said that many safety incidents occur at the entrance or just around it because there are no staff members close enough to the entrance because of the way the building is designed.
The library board is recommending a plan to demolish and rebuild the library, twice its current size, they say more space is needed for staff and operations. Also, to make the design more welcoming for visitors and a renovation and expansion will be roughly the same cost as a complete rebuild.
In the board’s proposal, it includes a new facility double the size of the old library. No early renderings have been made but the board wants to ensure it would contain dynamic spaces, where residents could meet for lectures, stop for a coffee or catch up with friends.
Saunderson said the cost to tear apart and construct a new building will be about $125 million according to a 2017 report by Regina Public Library, and the cost to fix the current building and add more space by extending the structure will also cost around the same amount.
“Essentially to fix this building and to expand it to 150,000 square feet, the number was very similar to what a demolition and construction would be,” Saunderson said.
The cost for simply fixing up the current structure without any new additions or extensions will be around $50 million according to a 2017 Regina Public Library report.
But the library rebuild is just one of five big projects competing for council consideration and public dollars. City of Regina has established a catalyst committee to look at building a new arena and aquatics facility as well.
Committee co-chair Bob Hawkins says much consideration is needed before moving ahead with any of these projects, “gather information from experts, gather information from previous studies collect all together , well digest it, its a big job, debate it amongst ourselves,” he said.
Regina public library is hosting public tours at the downtown branch all week for people to be able to see what the issues are with the facility and why they are pushing for change.
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