Vision for more HRM library branches in the works

HALIFAX, N.S. — Halifax libraries are more heavily used, yet we have fewer locations than the national average.

Asa Kachan, chief librarian and CEO of Halifax Public Libraries, presented the 2024/-025 budget to the budget committee on Friday. It’s worth $25,083,300 – $1.5 million more than last year.

“We have 14 branches now and we had 14 branches at amalgamation. We have major population shifts and growth and then historic gaps in how we provided neighbourhood service,” Kachan said.

They are working on a facilities plan for the future, given Halifax’s growth trajectory. Kachan said they’re looking at the gaps for service and what can be done about that. New builds are, of course, expensive, but there’s more flexibility with leased spaces, she said.

“There are national standards on how many library square feet you should have by population and we are below those,” Kachan said.

Yet usage is up.

‘People in Halifax lean into their library’

It is projected that there will be 20.9 million library uses in the 2024-2025 fiscal year, with 14.6 million electronic uses and more than 200,000 people attending programs.

Nationally, the median per capita library use is 30, Kachan said, and Halifax is 42.

“People in Halifax lean into their library in a much more intentional way,” Kachan said.

Increasingly, libraries are where many people seek help finding information on shelters or housing Kachan said. Staff even distribute storm kits and food.

Where some homeless folks may not be welcome in other spaces, they can go to the library, said Coun. Tony Mancini (Harbourview – Burnside – Dartmouth East).

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“We’re seeing the homeless, the most vulnerable of our society, go into the library,” he said. “And, I would add to it, our new Canadians, it’s one of the first places that they go. “

Tantallon has a “lovely little library” but it’s bursting at the seams, said Coun. Pam Lovelace (Hammonds Plains – St. Margarets). She said she is eager to see this facilities plan.

Kachan said they’ll be looking at HRM’s needs for the next 20 years and the plan will be in front of council within a year.

A rendering showing the renovations at the Keshen Goodman Public Library in Clayton Park West. – Halifax Public Libraries

In the works

The second busiest branch in the city, Keshen Goodman Public Library, is currently closed because of long-term renovations that are expected to be finished this spring.

Renovations are planned for Captain William Spry Public Library, expected to be implemented in 2027. It’s expected to cost $5 million, but Coun. Patty Cuttel (Spryfield – Sambro Loop – Prospect Road) said she expects it to be higher by then.

Also in the long term, libraries staff plan to work with parks and rec and Halifax Fire and Emergency to build a new library in Sheet Harbour in 2026/2027.

Federal and provincial funding for a Mill Cove ferry terminal hasn’t been announced yet, but if that project moves forward, council has committed to planning for a $15-million library connected to the terminal.

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