Bishop’s Falls Mayor Bryan King and town council members say they were blindsided by the sudden closure of the town’s public library last week.
King says on March 15 the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board met and decided to close the Bishop’s Falls Public Library.
“First thing Friday morning, the library staff gets a call telling them to leave the building and lock the door behind them because they’re closing the library, with no indication as to any rhyme or reason why,” said the mayor.
King said there was no conversation between the library board and town council. After speaking with the librarian, King did receive a call from the board telling him the library was closing.
According to King, a 2013 fire inspection conducted on the building that houses the public library determined that nearly $110,000 worth of investment was required to bring it in line with fire regulations.
“We came to an agreement that (the library board) would come up with $70,000, and we discussed that (council) would do our part to come up with the shortfall to bring everything up to code.”
In 2016, government announced the planned closing of 54 libraries. Bishop’s Falls was to be one of those.
“After that, the board came back and said, ‘you guys are slated to close,’” King said. “And because of that (the board) was going to renege on doing the renovations.’”
King made note of what he called poor communication on the part of the provincial board.
“Of course, since the original announcement, the government decided to not close the library, so we just assumed business was normal and back as it was,” King said.
The town had completed tender documents and a plan review, but said the provincial board decided to close the doors on the library without any dialogue or consultation with Bishop’s Falls as a municipality.
King said he heard the library was closed only temporarily until the needs of the building were met, but hadn’t heard that directly from the provincial board itself.
“That’s a different tune than what we were told on Friday,” King said.
Andrew Hunt, provincial library board executive director, confirmed the library is temporarily closed as a result of safety concerns.
“The (board) has temporarily suspended operations of the Bishop’s Falls Public Library to address fire and life safety concerns,” Hunt wrote in an email to the Advertiser March 19. “The primary concern is safe (exit) from the public library in case of emergency. The library is located in the Bishop’s Falls Town Hall basement. This action has been taken to ensure the personal safety of library patrons and staff.”
Hunt also said the provincial board plans to assess safety concerns and to work with the Town of Bishop’s Falls to resolve them.
The mayor said his goal is to keep the library doors open, and that after conversations with the provincial board town council would move forward with a plan to do just that.