Prairie Outpost

A website for the Prairie Outpost podcast as well as Dylon's writings

Echoes of the past & present in West Kildonan library saga

Note: A version of this story was published  in the Free Press Community Review West online on August 10, 2022 under the title “Kildonan Library issue recalls Cornish debate“.

On May 26th of this year, Winnipeg City Council officially nixed a plan to move the West Kildonan Library from a city-owned building in a walkable location on Jefferson Avenue to a rental space at Garden City mall. This move was celebrated by many, including those part of the Friends of West Kildonan Library coalition. For Dennis Bayomi, who grew up in West Broadway but now lives in Westwood, it was also reminiscent of a similar debate decades ago.

Bayomi notes that in the 1990s many community libraries were at risk of branch amalgamation and closure.

“Cornish (Library) was one of the libraries where there was a threat of closing” he said.

Activism through groups like the Friends of Cornish Library ensured this branch remained open. The Library was designated a heritage structure in 1991 and recently completed renovations make Bayomi confident that this branch is now safe from closure.

With cost of living, public safety, and potholes likely big issues come the October 26th civic election, Bayomi worries libraries will get short shrift.

“Yet, to me, without libraries we don’t have people who are smart enough to figure out how to patch a pothole or how to solve poverty and homelessness (…) without knowledge we have nothing” he emphasized.

Image Caption: Dennis Bayomi outside the Cornish Library. Photo taken by Dylon Martin.

Councillor Sherri Rollins is chair of City Council’s Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks. She represents the Fort Rouge – East Fort Garry ward, which includes West Broadway and the Cornish Library.

She notes that this standing committee leads policy discussion on libraries to Council. The Library Board reports to this committee with plans and priorities for the public library system. It is then up to councillors and the Mayor’s budgetary working group to fund those plans.

Bayomi argues that pressure emerges to close or amalgamate existing libraries to serve fast-growing, newer areas if the City is intent on keeping the number of branches fixed at 22..

Rollins agrees that there can be tensions, with finite budgets, in balancing each community’s demand for library services.

Rollins adds that there is a supportive culture around the Winnipeg Public Library system with groups like the Friends of Winnipeg Public Library.

“I would like to acknowledge the Library Board and the Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library. Friends are committed to literacy and community (…) (with my work on library issues) I stand on the shoulders of giants.” she said.

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