Council promises new permanent home for Chinguacousy library branch; TMU distances itself from Bramalea Civic Centre eviction
City council has pledged to find a new permanent home for Brampton Library’s Chinguacousy branch after its sudden eviction from the Bramalea Civic Centre.
The promise came following a delegation from Brampton Library’s Board Chair, Jaipaul Massey-Singh, and its CEO Todd Kyle, on Wednesday requesting council do more to address the organization’s needs after its sudden eviction from the Bramalea Civic Centre to make room for the planned Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) medical school.
“I think what’s different about this particular go-around is that we’re unfortunately feeling that we’re in the position that we’re reacting,” Kyle told Council. “Had communication been more open, had there been a little more of a strategic direction that was shared earlier on, had there been more engagement at the beginning I think we could have avoided some of the questions that are being raised now.”
In early March, Brampton council passed a motion to declare the Bramalea Civic Centre, which houses the Chinguacousy branch, as surplus, and approved staff to transfer it to TMU for the proposed medical school.
Library staff were told they have until the end of August to pack their books and relocate.
On March 28, Brampton Library’s board met, passing a motion to temporarily move the branch to the much smaller Chinguacousy Park Ski Chalet with the hope of building a new home in the future. A separate resolution was passed to send a letter to Mayor Patrick Brown, Brampton Council and TMU detailing the board’s concerns and asking for a commitment to build a permanent home.
As reported in the Board’s letter to Council, 28 percent of households in the census tracts closest to the Chinguacousy branch have at least one active cardholder, and every month the branch sees about 20,000 visitors, 28,000 loans of books and other items, and about 2,500 uses of its computers
The forced, sudden move was described in the recent board meeting by Massey-Singh as “a real step backwards in a community that relies tremendously on the library”. The Chinguacousy branch is one of the biggest and busiest in Brampton’s library network.
The branch’s space in the Chinguacousy Ski Chalet will be considerably smaller at 14,000 square feet, 4,000 of which is for personnel. This compares to about 50,000 square feet at the civic centre, which includes 33,000 square feet for the Chinguacousy branch and 17,000 square feet of operational space for Brampton Library’s acquisitions, shipping and receiving, programming, outreach, marketing, and IT functions. The On-The-Go outreach van is also housed at the facility.
The ski chalet will only hold 25 percent of the material accessible at the Bramalea Civic Centre location.
While the City has maintained from the outset that the relocation will only be temporary, Massey-Singh explained that unless a motion is passed and a commitment secured, council could theoretically not follow through. As a result, the library would be left with a “facility that was meant to be a temporary fix becoming an inappropriate and insufficient permanent home.”
“My concern is that whether it be a change in leadership at the City level, whether it be a change in leadership at the library level, whether it be changing priorities at the City, that this opportunity won’t be fully realized,” Massey-Singh told councillors in their committee meeting Wednesday.
“We’re not suggesting these aren’t opportunities, what we’d like is confirmation in a formal way from city council to say, ‘Let’s work together for those opportunities to be fully realized.’”
The response from council members was overwhelmingly positive, stating that there was never any doubt that the location at the ski chalet would be temporary. Mayor Patrick Brown went as far as to suggest it was “misinformation” to say otherwise.
The removal of the Chinguacousy from the Civic Centre was done without consultation, and viewed by Library board members as a “betrayal” by City Council and staff at a time when the municipal library system needs more space, not less.
According to the Brampton Library’s facilities master plan, the organization is below its target for library space per capita, and far below other GTA municipalities in space and number of branches.
(Brampton Library Facilities Master Plan)
Among Canada’s 10 largest cities, Brampton provides the fewest number of branch locations and ranks last in library space per capita. Brampton, with a population of approximately 697,000 (according to the Library’s document), currently has 8 branches; by comparison, Vancouver, with a population of 648,000, has 21. Surrey, BC, with a population of approximately 557,000, has nine.
“The current gap between population and library space can be expected to widen in the future unless accompanied by an appropriate library development strategy,” the document reads.
(Brampton Library Facilities Master Plan)
One of the features being lost from the Chinguacousy branch is the recording studio. Kyle explained to Council that there were plans to refurbish and relaunch the studio which has been closed due to the pandemic -– but those were cut short by the eviction notice. In the current facilities that the Library owns, there’s nowhere to accommodate it.
During discussion, Councillor Rowena Santos suggested that in June council could look at the possibility of integrating it into a “community hub model approach” in another facility.
She asked Kyle if the Library was aware that City staff was looking at adding a new program to subsidize a recording studio space for local artists and a new multimedia space where the City could work with the Brampton Arts Organization downtown.
Kyle answered that this is the first time he was hearing about it.
Todd Kyle, Brampton Library’s Chief Executive Officer told Council he wasn’t informed that the City was looking to subsidize a recording studio space for local artists to make up for the loss of the one from the Chinguacousy branch.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
The motion, brought forward by Councillor Paul Vicente, and passed unanimously states, “That staff continue to support the Brampton Library on a short-term relocation to these City spaces in consultation with Brampton Library staff and minimize the impacts to the local community; and that the City work with the Brampton Library and fund the necessary consultant to determine the future site for the Chinguacousy branch that will best meet the needs of the local community and identify collaborative opportunities for coordinating long-term Library site plans into the City’s recreation and facility planning processes.”
In an interview after the meeting, Kyle said he feels the motion addresses the Library’s concerns.
“From my point of view and that of the board's chair Jaipaul Massey-Singh, the motion passed does address the library's concerns and pledges support for the growth of the Library by reviewing community needs and investing in sufficient, permanent space for library services for our residents,” Kyle said. “However, until the Board meets at the end of April, we can't comment on whether the Board as a whole will be satisfied.”
For next steps, Kyle said it is too early to comment, as the organization is in the midst of a “frantic plan to move a branch and two staff administration groups.”
TMU has been less receptive to the letter from the Library board. In a response included on the agenda Wednesday, Mohamed Lachemi, President and Vice-Chancellor of TMU alleged Brampton Library was misrepresenting the agreement between the university and the City.
“As you know, the City made it clear that it would take responsibility for appropriately informing and relocating tenants, including the library. While we are aware that the city has worked hard to find alternate accommodation for all of those tenants, and in some cases finding multiple options, the library continues to misrepresent the nature of the agreement and the responsibilities therein,” Lachemi wrote.
He said that while TMU will continue to respect the process, they have “serious concerns about being unjustly misrepresented” by the Brampton Library.
“We ask that you continue to work to find new places for the Civic Centre tenants and that, to avoid misinformation and damage to the university’s reputation, the City clarifies that, as per our agreement, this responsibility belongs to the council and not the university.”
Kyle told The Pointer that the Brampton Library was “confused and dismayed by the accusations” from the university.
“At no point has the library intimated that it is TMU's responsibility to find a new home for the Chinguacousy Branch Library; we are well aware that that is the Library's and the City's responsibility,” he said. “We are aware that concerned residents may have called out TMU for their part in the situation, but the Library is uninvolved in any resident protest actions.”
The Library and its board have been vocally supportive of TMU building a medical school in Brampton. As part of the delegation to Council on Wednesday, Massey-Singh made that clear, stating that as an organization they believe in “the transformative power of education.”
“As council is aware, there is a number of us both on the staff side and the board side to help facilitate more post-secondary opportunities in the community,” Massey-Singh said. “I think it’s really important this is not a response negatively to Toronto Metropolitan, but more so a comment that the way the plan to bring that university into the city and the way its being executed, we believe, is not being fully considerate of the impact to the community, Brampton Library’s operations and what we feel is the lack of engagement with a number of partners to do so in a smooth manner.”
The Pointer asked TMU for the specific statements the university alleges are behind the institution being “unjustly misrepresented”.
A spokesperson for TMU responded with a statement that “TMU is very pleased to be working with the City of Brampton to bring a new medical school to the region.”
“As per our agreement with the City of Brampton, the city made it clear that it would take responsibility for appropriately informing and relocating tenants, including the library. The university will continue to respect that process and is confident that the City of Brampton will continue to work with the Brampton Library to find a location for the Chinguacousy branch that will best meet the needs of the local community.”
Since the eviction was announced, two community-led petitions have been launched. One, addressed to Mayor Brown, MPP Charmaine Williams, Councillor Pat Fortini, and Kyle, asks for the branch to be kept at the existing Bramalea Civic Centre spot. The other asks both the City and TMU jointly “reverse the reckless decision of evicting the Brampton Library's Chinguacousy Branch from the Civic Centre.”
(Letter from Toronto Metropolitan University included on Wednesday’s agenda)
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