A coalition of community groups is hoping to save the MSA Centennial Library by Jubilee Park and turn it into a new art gallery or cultural hub for downtown Abbotsford.
Ken Wuschke, spokesman for the Friends of the MSA Centennial Library - which includes the Abbotsford Art Council, MSA Museum Society and the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association - made an appeal to city council at its meeting on Monday.
The library, which was built with support from community groups such as the Rotary, Kinsmen and Lions clubs in 1967 to commemorate Canada's confederation, is slated for closure in November when the Abbotsford Community Library opens adjacent to Abbotsford Senior Secondary School.
The group would like to see the 45-year-old building maintained as part of Abbotsford's architectural heritage and repurposed as a gallery and meeting space for community groups, said Wuschke. The library's friends are cooperating closely with the Abbotsford Art Council to develop the building as an arts centre.
The art council's present gallery, Kariton House at Mill Lake, is 870 square feet, while MSA library is 3,600 square feet, said Wuschke.
"The space lends itself so well to being a gallery with its high ceilings and lighting," he said.
Gail Gromaski, executive director of the Abbotsford Arts Council, said the larger space could showcase more local artists each year.
"The demand for exhibiting art is so much greater than the Kariton can provide . . . and perhaps we [could] have a permanent collection or show a couple of artists at the same time," said Gromaski.
The arts council has 63 member groups that could benefit from space in the basement for such things as summer camps, rehearsal space and meeting rooms.
Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said the city planned to put out a request for proposals so all community groups could submit ideas about what to do with the building.
"We'll see what shakes loose from the trees," Banman said. "We're not in a hurry to make any rash decisions about the building and we'll see what the best uses could be."
Wuschke agreed all community groups should come forward with ideas for the library.
"Our specific focus is to save the building," he said.