Future of Halifax's Memorial Library 'in limbo'
Halifax councillors are trying to decide what to do with Halifax’s Memorial Library when it closes later this month.
The building on Spring Garden Road is a landmark in the city and was home to a burial ground between the 1760s and 1840s.
“On this site you have people like Hessian soldiers buried here, Saladin pirates are buried here,” says librarian Joanne McCarthy-O’Leary.
The library first opened in 1951. Before then, the library was located in city hall, in what is now the mayor’s office.
“The citizens of Halifax at the time in 1945 post-war wanted…a memorial and…a functioning public library,” says McCarthy-O’Leary.
When the sod was turned in 1949, it was for a living memorial to represent what soldiers fought and died for.
“Freedom of culture, freedom of reading, freedom of education,” says McCarthy-O’Leary.
All valuable items, including books of remembrance of the soldiers killed in the First and Second World Wards, will be moved to the city’s new library, which is set to open across the street later this year.
Now councillors are trying to decide what to do with the building itself when it closes on Aug. 30.
“It’s gone to the city to be decided, and they did conduct a review,” says Paul Bennett, chairman of the Halifax Regional Library Board.
“The staff will come back to regional council with a report that will have recommendations in it,” says city spokesman Brendan Elliott. “Ultimately, it will be council’s decision as to how to move forward.”
Council had considered turning the library into a legislative assembly for 35 Mi’kmaq organizations in Atlantic Canada, but the region’s chiefs rejected the idea. They expressed concerns about the renovation costs and were uncomfortable with the fact the library is located on burial grounds.
“They have found it a site or building that needs too much renovation and it is prohibitively expensive so it’s in limbo right now,” says Bennett.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant