Questions & Answers

 10(ish) Things You’re Asking about the New Central Library (video)

Why is this project needed, and why now?

A new central library is a critical piece of SPL’s long-term plan to address growth and service demand and will address the safety, service gaps, and accessibility issues and add the much-needed capacity required for SPL to continue to deliver vital library services to the community into the future.

Lack of capacity and high demand for service is straining SPL’s ability to provide library service across the city. As a result of the small size and condition of the current central library facility, we have troubling service gaps including lack of public space, an inability to support the technology needs of patrons, lack of programming rooms, an undersized collection, and safety and security concerns.

Where will it be located?

SPL has worked collaboratively with the City of Saskatoon to determine potential downtown locations for a new central library that will best meet the needs of the community and align with one of SPL’s goals to support downtown rejuvenation. Due to the commercial sensitivity of site selection, the exact location will be publicly communicated when a land deal is reached.

When will it open?

The business case timeline assumes based on funding approval in September 2019 that the new central library will open in 2026.

How will the public get to influence the building / will there be an opportunity for public input?

We’re grateful for all of the insights and information shared with us during our community consultation that informed our business case, and we look forward to more opportunities for the community to help us shape this incredible new library in the future.

How big will it be?

The new central library is estimated to be 149,000 square feet. This size aligns with comparative facilities, design and building standards, and industry benchmarking.

How will the new building compare to the existing one?

The new building will contain many of the same spaces we currently have, but they will be expanded and re-imagined, as well we’ll have new technology spaces. We also expect to be leaders in reconciliation, accessibility and environmental sustainability in a new library facility.

Why does it need to nearly double in size from 78,000 square feet to 149,000 square feet? 

As a library system, SPL is undersized to meet the needs of our current population based on industry benchmarks and the existing central library is also too small.  This is a 50-year building and the last thing we’d want to do it build a new central library that is too small.

Do people use the library? Do we need space for more books?

We know that this library is needed. The evidence is in our usage data – In 2018, SPL had over 1.4 million visits, circulated 3.3 million items, and demand for programs and services steadily increasing.

Even though demand for electronic materials is increasing, demand for physical materials is still very strong, as well as there are growing demands for access to public space and technology as the role of libraries is changing.

Many people take for granted the ability to buy books and to own devices including computers and having access to the internet at home, and forget that for many people on our community, the public library is their only way to access these things.

Will a new central library provide economic benefits to Saskatoon?

In KPMG’s analysis, a new central library is projected to result in a positive economic impact with an estimated $132 million in value-added GDP during the construction phase and estimated GDP impacts of over $15 million annually once operating.

Couldn’t you renovate the existing central library instead?

We looked at renovating the current central library, but it comes with a high price – at $57 million, and we’d end up with a smaller collection and less space than we have now and over-crowding is already a huge issue for us.

What will happen to the current central library building?

The current central library will continue to operate until the new central library is ready. The Library Board owns the building and the land. It will be placed for sale, and the proceeds will be put towards the new library.

Will a central library just benefit people who live downtown?

A new central library is the heart of the library system, and it will serve the entire community. Not only will it be available for use by all residents, but it will add much-needed capacity to the entire system supporting the branch libraries with a larger collection that it can house and circulate.

Why not build more branch libraries instead of a new central library?

Central libraries have a unique role to play in library systems in terms of supporting branches and providing specialized services. The central library is both too small and has serious issues related to safety and accessibility that need to be addressed, and this is our current focus, but we know there are service needs in the neighbourhoods as well.

We’re not taking our eyes off of the neighbourhoods as we recently opened a branch in Stonebridge, and have begun a renewal process for our older branches that will continue for the next few years, as well as expanded service hours at two locations.

Once we know the future of the central library, we’ll be looking at how to meet the demands of the neighbourhoods – possibly through mobile service delivery in the short-term until we can build permanent locations.

How much will it cost, and how will it be paid for?

The new central library estimated project cost of $154 million (adjusted for inflation). Funding sources are a combination of reserve funds, land sale proceeds, donations and $87.5 million in borrowing (with the debt repayment via the library levy).

How much will it cost to operate a new central library? 

The independent analysis concluded that SPL will need an additional $2.3 million to operate the new central library.

Will there be parking?

A parkade was not included in the new central library Business Case. Our preferred site is in very close proximity to the bus rapid transit route, which was identified as a priority in our public consultations. It also has nearby access to existing public parking lots.