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Cape Breton Regional Municipality in need of new central library


The James McConnell Memorial Library in downtown Sydney, N.S., is nearly 64-years-old, and some feel it's time for a new chapter.

"The library system needs a new library, from the ground up,” said Ken Chisholm, a longtime storyteller at the library on Falmouth Street.

Chisholm said the current building has a lot of shortcomings, and with a growing population and influx of students, it's time for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) to make a decision on a new one.

"I understand it's a big commitment, but I think once they commit to it and once the building - whatever it looks like - when it gets up, it will add so much to the downtown,” Chisholm said.

"It doesn't really meet a modern library service,” added regional librarian Lisa Mulak.

In recent years, the library has closed on the hottest summer days because it doesn't have proper air conditioning.

Some of its stained glass windows have been boarded up due to rotting.

Still, Mulak said a decision about its future should be made with careful consideration.

"To really approach with caution the decision that will affect the next 50 years, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime decision,” she said.

One of the options being considered for a new library is a former courthouse building overlooking Sydney’s Wentworth Park.

"And we have other options that I think should be looked at,” said CBRM councillor Eldon MacDonald. “We own the land on the corner of Prince and George Streets - I've always spoken about that property for consideration."

MacDonald said the cost of renovating the old courthouse has been estimated at between $30-35 million and other options include a brand new build.

He said the next step is for the central library board to put together a request for proposals for site selection analysis.

"We'll be making that decision hopefully in the next week or two,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald added that the final decision will be made by council.

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