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Letter: Didsbury library plans questioned

Response to proposed expansion

The joint press release of June 19, 2020 of the Town of Didsbury and the Board of Trustees of the Didsbury Municipal Library stated the initial intent to renovate and expand the Didsbury library into the adjacent former town office space makes the most sense of all the options they considered.

In 2017, after considerable research, including advice from AVID Architecture — a firm with expertise building and renovating libraries, the Didsbury library Expansion Committee determined such efforts would not be a wise use of taxpayer money, not be a solution to the spatial needs of the library, and amount to no more than “putting lipstick on a pig”.  These findings were accepted by the then-town council and library board.

The available floor space of the two buildings is approximately 9,300 square feet. AVID’s detailed review of the day-to-day operations of the library determined the present needs of the library is 10,333 square feet. Their calculations assumed no space for the Friends of the Library who raise $1,000 to $1,500 a month from book sales to support the operation of the library.

The library expansion committee reviewed library space planning guidelines published by the province of Alberta and other jurisdictions, concluding the optimal design to meet the future needs of the Didsbury and area community was 12,000 to 16,000 square feet. AVID concurred with this assessment.

AVID’s detailed review identified a number of significant technical issues. Furthermore, it was clear the solutions were not a wise use of taxpayer money.

The library and former town offices are “butler buildings”. These structures are most commonly used for storage of farm equipment. The weight bearing limitations of these structures, plus the limitations of the footings, limits the design and placement of rooftop HVAC units, and door and windowing openings.

The two buildings do not share a common wall, plus have an elevation difference of four to six inches. This would impose considerable restrictions on the interior design.      

The buildings were not constructed to present-day standards. The vapour barrier was installed on the exterior of the buildings reducing the energy efficiency of the buildings, but also has allowed moisture to collect on the inside of the walls and likely has resulted in mould being present.  

In order to address this issue, plus meet the energy efficiency requirements of the National Energy Building Code for public buildings, the removal of the roof and all walls would be required. From a practical standpoint this would amount to the equivalent of a complete demolition and a rebuild.

The library expansion committee was thoughtful in their research and analysis. Its members considered every dollar being spent on the project as having to come out of their own pocket. If facts matter, they remain unchanged from 2017. Thus, it makes no sense to arrive at any different conclusion than the one reached at that time.  

Kevin Bentley, Didsbury resident and chairman of the former Didsbury library expansion committee.