RADIA: Do we even need libraries anymore?

FACE TO FACE: Was $15 million for Coquitlam’s new library money well spent?

In November, the city of Coquitlam opened its new, fancy $15-million Town Centre library branch.

Now, this is the Cadillac of libraries: It’s 31,000 sq. ft. and includes a gallery wall, a coffee station and dedicated sections for any category of book you can think of. It even includes a fireplace lounge.

Ah, our tax dollars at work.

I’m not saying that we should close our existing libraries but for a city council to allocate $15 million for a behemoth of a building for thousands of paper books is a little perplexing.

In case Coquitlam city council was unaware, traditional books are becoming obsolete. People now read books and newspapers via the internet using desktop and laptop computers, tablets, eReaders and smart phones.

I think my colleague opposite sort of gets that. Unfortunately, he makes the absurd argument that libraries are also places for people to access computers and the internet.

If taxpayers are really concerned about our less-fortunate, then wouldn’t it be more cost effective to purchase laptops for every low-income household in Coquitlam?

With regard to internet access: Are there no internet cafés? Are there no coffee houses?

Here’s an idea: Why don’t we build a municipal wireless network that gives everyone within city limits basic access to the internet. That’s the sort of thing we should be spending money on in 2013.

The city will tell you that the new library will also add to the meeting space inventory in the city. I don’t think we efficiently utilize our existing space as is, but that’s a debate for another time.

Again, I’m not against libraries; rather, I question the logic of spending millions of dollars on new bricks-and-mortar infrastructure to house more than 200,000 books and audio materials. Maybe that was the correct use of taxpayers’ money in 1990 but I don’t think it is in 2013, and I know it won’t be in 2020.

Our city councils need to have an eye on the future, start downsizing our existing libraries and re-invest in eBook technologies.

In other words, they need to get with the times and join the virtual world.

Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.


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