Lisa Erickson chairs the Saskatoon Public Library Board.

SASKATOON -- Building a proposed $152.9 million downtown library branch should be a priority in a growing city like Saskatoon, according to the head of the Saskatoon Public Library Board.

“This current library that we’re standing in right now was built for a population half Saskatoon’s current size and we know we have deficiencies in this building, accessibility issues, and we know how much Saskatoon cares about its library and how much people in Saskatoon rely on the library for service,” board chair Lisa Erickson said.

Money for a new central library was earmarked in the city’s proposed budget for 2020 and 2021 released Wednesday. The budget still needs approval from city council during three days of deliberations scheduled towards the end of November.

In the 2020 budget, the ask for a central library makes up 39.1 per cent of the city’s capital budget.

The anticipated total cost of the library project is $152.9 million; the city would borrow $87.5 million.

The library board has spent years saving $45 million in reserve funds for a central library. Another $15 million is expected to come from private donations, according to the city’s proposed budget.

Erickson said after the library board presented its business case to City Council in September, councillors and the mayor had more questions about the project. Further discussion is expected in November, ahead of budget deliberations.

While Saskatoon continues to spread to the east and west of the city, the library board believes having a downtown hub is still essential for the overall health of the library system.

“It serves the catchment area, the people who would come to a central library to borrow books, to meet with others. It also serves as a destination, so we know from other central library projects across Canada, that it’s a real magnet for people who live throughout the city to come, to build connections, but it also functions as the heart of the library system, the operational heart,” she said.

“We need a healthy heart to ensure all of those branches are also healthy.”