Just a year ago, William Clarke, Al Birnie, Naomi Balla-Boudreau, Marilyn Wheeler and others asked us to consider their dream and to support the conversion of 521 Main Street from empty retail space to a Cultural Centre/Library/Museum. Their dream was to house there a significantly larger library, incorporating the growing content and programming of our new Museum display space with room for a growing learning and activity space for community activities. At the time the vision was somewhat obscure and required professional guidance to help focus – however this was ovecome with direction and assistance from Victoria’s Dr. Michael Shoop. Over the intervening months it became increasingly clear that in order to secure assistance from senior levels of government and the corporate community, it was first necessary to garner support from the local level of government. After a couple of false starts, this led to the intervention of a ‘Mentorship Mediator’ who guided the discussion towards the necessity to get the appropriate planning approvals in place as the critical first step.

The Library/Museum through their joint committee started hosting a number of initiatives to raise the necessary funds, and to maintain community support. With dinners, plant sales, comedy nights, cabarets, dances, and upcoming events including apple pie sales and the Harvest Dinner all became part of that effort and the money started to roll in. At the same time though the clock was ticking and ultimately it became necessary to change the listing on the above noted building, notwithstanding several entreaties that the groups and owners were happy to continue to work together with the Village administration and regional district. Finally at a recent Council meeting, first and second readings of the necessary bylaw changes were approved pending a public hearing and then third and ultimately fourth readings. Oct. 15th was the designated time, and the Community Centre the location.

With that in mind, we prepared the following list of questions and gathered the response from the Joint Boards leadership:

Q. What are the Library Boards feelings to the recent decision to go to public hearing after second reading?

A. Village Council’s decision to hold the public hearing is only fitting and fair. We live in a democracy where the wishes of the majority should be respected. It is another opportunity for the general public in the Robson Valley to show their over whelming support for this expansion project. We would welcome a large turnout of local citizens to make their feelings about the rezoning known to Council.

Q. The ongoing financial status… there have been several fundraisers over the last year…what is the current financial status of the Library Board, and how much has the pot grown as a result of these efforts?

A. We have raised $65,000 to date, the majority in direct donations from current and former residents of the Robson Valley, and supplemented by our fundraising public events. Although some funds have been used for campaign expenses.

Q. Is there any consideration for a Plan B in the event that someone was to come in and buy 521 Main Street? What might that look like?

A. Neither have we decided on a Plan B should 521 Main no longer be available. We have of course investigated and discussed other options , but 521 Main is overwhelmingly the best and most economical location for our new cultural centre. We are going to pursue it for as long as we possibly can.

Q. What are future promotion plans? Who are other potential givers? What about previous long term residents or their estates?

A. We continue to prepare government and foundation funding applications and approach private donors, but that direction is unlikely to show much success without the active support of the Village Council and the Regional District. For example, we had a grant of $50,000 lined up from a private foundation for computer equipment, which was withdrawn pending our receiving this support. We are continuing to pursue this support through the Working Group.

Q. September has seen a blizzard of different fundraisers: so far the thanksgiving dinner and the pie making are the only things announced. What are other upcoming fundraisers?

A. Following the Harvest Dinner and making apple pies (both of which were activities taken on by the Library/Museum after other groups had decided to give them up), there are no other projects currently planned. Everyone needs a Christmas break!

By: Chris Parker