The squabble between the Ottawa Public Library and the Ottawa Public Library Foundation seems to be a permanent one, with no chance for a resolution. The reason for the split stems from the foundation’s inability to raise funds needed for whatever it is that OPL intends to do with the library building.
Recently, the city and OPL decided to modernize the downtown library branch, instead of expanding or building a brand new library in a different location. A new library would be nice – the current one is drab, boring and inefficient in terms of space. It looks more like a remnant from a 1970’s movie.
So the foundation was set up in 2002 to raise funds for a new library. When the city realized that the foundation had not been raising much money, it decided to withdraw support.
But instead of pointing the finger at the foundation for not being able to raise funds, OPL should take another look at itself and share some of the blame.
There has never been a firm decision as to what the city would do with the downtown branch. Would it modernize the space to make it more reader-friendly, add two storeys, or would Ottawa get a brand new central library? These were the choices available to the city and the OPL board nut no firm decision was forthcoming.
It is easy to imagine the difficulty the foundation had in raising money, then. Who wants to support a project they know nothing about?
Imagine this scenario: You’re walking down the street and a spokesperson for an organization that builds homes for underprivileged people in South America stops you for a minute. They ask for a donation to their organization, and you, wanting as much information as possible, ask what the money will be used for.
The organization’s spokesperson gives you a list of three different potential projects, which have not been decided upon. Would you give money to this organization, not knowing how exactly that money will be used, and without any specific details and decisions over the project? Would anyone?
That’s the issue that has been plaguing the foundation. Supposedly, it was raising money for a new library downtown, but a new building was just one option among many. That’s what made it difficult to secure funding.
Now that the city and OPL have finally decided to modernize, the foundation finally has a solid project upon which to focus its fundraising efforts, even if it’s not the one it wanted. Giving the downtown library a facelift is absolutely necessary to attract more readers.
Calling it quits now, when a decision has been made on what to do with the library, seems a bit premature. Instead, OPL should ask the foundation to intensify its efforts and concentrate on securing funding for modernizing the downtown building.
There is no need for the foundation and OPL to part ways – they can still continue to work together to raise funds for the library. In fact, the goal should be easier to achieve now that everyone knows what will happen with the downtown branch.