Editorial: The false dichotomy of the Robson Valley Learning and Exploration Centre

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By KORIE MARSHALL, EDITOR

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of discussion about whether or not McBride’s library and museum should move to a currently empty building on Main Street. But after reading the feasibility study the Regional District completed this fall, I think the real issue is whether McBride and the surrounding community want a library and museum at all.

It’s been clear to people who use the library and museum that the space the two organizations currently occupy has been less than adequate for either. They have been working together for many years, which seems to me a natural partnership, and one that should save money for both. They’ve considered their options, and they haven’t wanted to invest heavily in their current buildings. I think that makes sense, because I don’t see how the buildings can ever meet their needs for the future, let alone their needs today. And they don’t have the money anyway.

Like a lot of things in the Robson Valley, the current library building was built by the labour and donations of locals who believed in the future of the community, and understood the need for a library. The museum’s collection has also been built up by the work and donations of locals who know that our history means something, and understand that it helps create the character of a place. They know it is important for residents to know and remember their history, but it’s also interesting for visitors, and for new people who might want to join the community.

Neither the library nor the museum organizations have said this, but it seems clear to me that if the community does nothing, the current buildings will crumble and the library and museum will have to live in people’s houses and other donated space here and there – an even more ineffective system than is in place at the moment. They would need to find money to fix the existing buildings, and they’ve realized that will be a waste of that money, because they will still be left with inadequate facilities, even for today’s needs.

A feasibility study report is on the Regional District Board’s agenda for this week’s meeting, and it offers three options: renovate existing building; build new; or move into 521 Main Street. It doesn’t look at the option of “do nothing,” because the current buildings offer far less space than other facilities in comparable sized communities. They also need a lot of work. In fact the Annex building is “beyond repair,” according to the report.

It seems the building at 521 Main Street is not only the best option to give the library and museum the space they need, it’s also the cheapest.

Some have said on social media recently that they support the library and museum, but only if it doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything. Some people have said they don’t think Main Street is the right spot for a library. Some say we should be putting money into economic development, instead of the library, and then we’ll be able to afford a library expansion later.

That last one is a false dichotomy. For one thing, no one has put any new plan on the table to stimulate economic development beyond what is already happening, so it’s not like you can choose one or the other. But the other thing some people don’t seem to realize is this plan to move and expand the library and museum – that IS economic development.

We want to attract people to come and live, maybe retire in the Robson Valley. We want to attract people who will come and start businesses, families to fill the schools. Don’t you think that seeing a vibrant learning and exploration centre right at the entrance to the community, a busy place filled with the work of past and present residents, built by an incredible partnership of the library and museum, fulfilling the needs of seniors, teens, families – Don’t you think that will attract people to the community? More than an empty building with a big “for sale” sign on it?

Everything is going to cost something, somewhere along the line. I think it is pretty clear that community members want to contribute to keeping the library and museum alive. They’ve been volunteering and donating, and people like Vern Pawloske are organizing their own fundraisers.

If the proposed bylaws pass three reading this week, the issue of moving the library and museum could come to a vote by residents from Croyden to Dome Creek. I won’t be able to vote because I don’t live in that region, but it looks to me like the best option, both for saving the library and museum, and for building a vibrant community.