Support is growing...
But government plans for rebuilding school reduce library space

Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 28/98) - Support is growing in Cambridge Bay for the rebuilding of a school and regional library with a cultural centre attached.

The Kitikmeot Heritage Society's Kim Crockatt says Nunavut Arctic College, the Ikaluktutiak Divisional Education Authority, Kullik Elementary School, the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay and others have expressed their support for such an effort.

A similar joint-facility was lost in the tragic fire which destroyed the community's high school in August. While the GNWT has promised to rebuild the school quickly, Crockatt said regulations now in place prevent the re-construction of such a large facility within the new school.

The Mary Hakongak Community Library, including the offices and archives of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, 17,000 books, oral histories from elders and other items, went up in flames during the disaster.

"They are going to be building the school library with an additional amount of square footage for the public library," she says. "The catch is it is considerably less, about half the size, (of the previous facility)."

Should the GNWT not approve the plan, Crockatt says her community will suffer.

"We will have to find alternative space," she says.

Unfortunately in her view, this will go against everything the heritage society has worked to accomplish over the past few years.

"The whole point is to get people into the library," she says.

Crockatt's statistics appear to support her argument. In 1990, the society and library set out to attract more local Inuit people to the library. Before that, Crockatt says, it was used mainly by southern professionals who work for the government.

They set out to bring in more culturally relevant materials for the collection. These included videos, oral histories and the use of the library for elder's workshops and other activities.

From 1990 to 1995, library statistics show an average increase of from 300 visits per month to 1000 visits each month.

"We're building on something we know works," she says.

Crockatt says the GNWT hopes to have plans for the new school-library in place by the end of the year. This means there is little time remaining to lobby for a complete community facility.