Closing the Queenston Library


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Niagara to close branch libraries
The library board has decided to close the town's two branch libraries by June 30, town council was told Tuesday at its general committee meeting. Declining membership and circulation did not justify keeping the branches in Queenston and Virgil open, board chairman Liz Kormas said. When these close, the only library facility left in the town would be the main library in the old town hall. The library board asked the town to take over responsibility for the building housing the Queenston operation which was donated to the town for use as a library by Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh. However, Ald. Nellie Keeler pointed out that the town has entered into an agreement with Dr. Afrukhteh to have the library there and said, "We can't agree to this until we know what Dr. Afrukhteh mam has to say about it."
Niagara Falls Review. June 25, 1975

Library owner threatening legal action against council
Council faces legal action if it cannot reverse a decision taken by a body over which it has no direct control, general committee was told. On June 24 a delegation from the library board told council the board had decided to close book depositories in Queenston and Virgil. The board cited declining membership and circulation as the reason. The branch libraries were closed June 30. In a letter to council Monday the owner of the building which housed the Queenston branch, Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh, said he would not accept the closing.

"The Queenston Library was established on agreement signed by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the writer and was trusted into the hands of the Board of the Library," the" letter said. "Any breach of such a legal document is considered as an offense. I am sure that the Library Board will look into this matter fully with their lawyers to prevent referral of this case to the juricidial (sic) authorities." Dr. Afrukhteh set a deadline of Aug. 1 for reopening the library. He also equated the closing of the library with the coming of the Dark Ages in Europe. "I hope this dark moment in the history of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake NOT be registered forever in Canadian history and the future generations. NOT to read in their history of the birthplace of this nation what we read in present history books as Follows the invasion, of Europe by barbarians was marked by the destruction of books and libraries resulting in a period of decadence known as DARK AGES," the letter said. Town Administrator George Voth defended the library board against one assumption made by Dr. Afrukhteh. Referring to cuts in the library board's budget, Dr. Afrukhteh said: "in the mind of any honest man it is unfair to close a library in order to get even with the council." Mr. Voth pointed out that in her presentation to council June 24 Liz Kormas, library board chairman, said repeatedly the closing was not being used as a political lever to protect the board's budget. "She even told council the decision to close the library was made before their budget was considered," Mr. Voth said. "Besides, there was no cut from the Queenston library's part of the budget."

Aubrey Dickson, president of the Queenston Community Association, asserted there is some reason other than those stated for the closing. "I don't know what those reasons are," he said, "but many members of the QCA would like to find out." He said there was a breakdown of communication between the library board and members of the QCA and noted Liz Kormas is a member of both bodies. "We (QCA) stand willing and able to help the library board in any way we can and we want that library open again as soon as possible," he said. Mayor Jake Froese, acknowledging the agreement was between the town and Dr. Afrukhteh and that the library board had not requested control over the Queenston building in the first place, suggested a closed meeting with the board to see if a solution could be reached. Niagara Falls Review. July 8, 1975

Library Board has alternative plan for Queenston
As an alternative to keeping the book deposits open in Queenston and Virgil the Library Board is prepared to supply a "shut-in" service and weekly trips to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Library. In a letter to council Monday night, Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh strongly protested the use of the Queenston Library building for any other use than the ones specified in the agreement. Citing the library board budget as the main reason the book deposits were closed Dr. Afrukhteh maintained the branch should be re-opened for use by Queenston residents.

The book deposits in Virgil and Queenston were closed as of June 30 with all books returned to the main branch with the exception of the permanent collection of 500 books at the Queenston Library. Should the new program be initiated the Niagara Library would deliver and pick up books as requested by those unable to visit the library in person. Using volunteers the Library also hopes to organize weekly trips to Niagara for those unable to drive. The Book deposit in Queenston was operated by volunteers from the Queenston Community Association and the Virgil branch received help from the Virgil Women's Institute. According to Mrs. Gerda Molson, chief librarian and secretary of the Library Board the book deposits proved an excellent service by introducing people to library facilities but since then most of the members have started to use the main library. Each book deposit took two weeks to prepare. A list of books was kept with catalogue numbers recorded so that books were not repeated. There was also the delivery of the books to the deposits and their arrangement on the shelves. "My own impression," Mrs. Molson said, "is that the public doesn't understand the skill and training necessary to gather information together. Volunteers do not have the training but they have done the best job they could." Under the original agreement the Library building was donated to the town by Dr. D. Afrukhteh with the restrictions that it be used in no other manner than as a public library and for the use for meetings to promote the education and culture and further the interest of the public. At the time of the transfer, June, 1972, the Queenston Community Association was not chartered so the building was operated jointly by the Library Board and the Queenston Community Association. Declining membership was given by the Library Board as the main reason for closing the book deposit. Figures show a membership of 172 in 1973 with 50 members in 1975. In Virgil the membership has declined from a high of 195 in 1973 to 58 in 1975. According to Mrs. Molson it is "just good management" to close the book deposits. "We've been in touch with the problems of the Queenston Library," Mrs. Molson said. "We've stressed the need for additional help to service the library and start a children's program. Until there is sufficient paid personnel we can't do a proper job in the community." According to Mrs. Molson with reciprocal borrowing the members are not getting the service they want and are moving to the larger branches. The Niagara-on-the-Lake library operated on a budget of $54,000 in 1974. A request for a budget of $66,743 was turned down by general committee with the budget for 1975 set at $59,363. The Library Board expects an increase of 32 per cent in utilities for this year 33V2 percent for new books and 10 percent for salaries. The hours for this year have been increased with the library open four nights a week and a library assistant has been hired.
Niagara Advance. July 10, 1975

Queenston library closure triggers hot council debate
After an hour of bitter debate, council members here last night decided to sit down with members of the town's library board to discuss the closing of the Queenston library. For the past three months, members of the library board and council have been fighting in private over a library board decision to close branch libraries in Queenston and Virgil. In June, while council members were busy paring depart-mental budgets, the town's library board decided to close its branch book depositories in the two small communities. At that time library board representatives assured council members the decision to close the libraries had nothing to do with an earlier council move to cut $7,380 from the board's 1975 budget. The libraries were closed after a thorough review of the branch operations indicated it wasn't economically feasible to continue funding book depositories in the two areas aldermen were told. The withdrawal of library services in the two communities was in no way an attempt to exert political pressure on council members Elizabeth Kormos, the library board chairman claimed. Since the libraries closed July 1, however, council members have been under constant fire from Queenston area residents to re-open the library there.
Court threatened Dr. D. Afrukteh, who donated the Queenston Community Centre the town specifically for use as a public library, has met with council members and warned them he is prepared to take the town to court if the library is not re-opened. Members of the Queenston Community Association have expressed displeasure at the building's closing and alder-men have been unable to en-courage the interested groups to meet together to discuss complaints. Despite a series of secret meetings and the exchange of private letters between Library board members and council members the conflict between the two bodies has remained.

Two weeks ago, council members attempted to solve the problem by asking the library board to re-open the Queenston building on a temporary basis and then to meet with council to discuss the situation. The library board, however, has sent aldermen a counter proposal that calls for the introduction of a mediator to help solve the conflict. In a letter to council members, Mrs. Kormos suggested council and library board representatives meet with representatives of the Queenston Community Association and Dr. Afrukteh at the Niagara Regional Library Centre where Mrs. Joan Robb, a consultant for the regional library system, can act as a mediator during the groups' discussion. Aldermen here, however, were not pleased with the library board's reply. "They have ignored council's request to re-open the library," Ald. Nellie Keeler complained. "It's a sad day for this council if we allow our resolutions to be treated in this manner. We call the shots. They don't give us alternatives." Ald. Mike Dietsch also complained that the library board had not responded to council members' request to re-open the library and said she felt it was an insult to suggest a mediator was needed to solve the conflict. Ald. Bert King, council's representative on the library board, objected strenuously to Aldermen Keeler and Dietsch's complaints. "The whole community is in an uproar." he claimed, "so let's get off our high horses and talk sanely with these people. Let's try and come to a common sense solution." Council members decided to send a counter-proposal to the library board suggesting that all council members and all library board members meet together with Mrs. Robb, the Queenston Community Association and Dr. Afrukteh.
by Peter Goodspeed. St. Catharines Standard. Sep 3, 1975

Joint efforts finds solution to Queenston library problem
Tentative agreement has been reached to open the Queenston Library with an initial installation of 1000 books, the Advance learned his week. The proposal is one of five alternatives put forward at a closed meeting last Thursday evening between members of Niagara-on-the-Lake council, representatives from the Queenston Community Association, the Library Board, Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh and Regional Library representatives.

The new proposal which will be ratified by those concerned at a second meeting September 25 in council chambers, calls for the expenditure of $1,872 for clerical help annually with the Library Board renting the building from the town for approximately $1,500 per year. The Queenston Library will be operated as much as possible as a branch library with assistance from the Regional Library Board. The closed meeting, had Mrs. Joan Robb, a consultant with the Regional library board, as mediator with Mrs. Pat Sherk of the Regional Board. According to Mrs. Robb, it was a "very positive meeting" with things out in the open and many misunderstandings cleared up. "We are making fresh start," Mrs. Robb said, "with the idea we will bring library service to Queenston. Our aim is to reopen the library. Library Boards are here to create libraries."

At the beginning of the meeting Alderman Nellie Keller asked to be excused in protest over the closing of the meeting to the press. "There have been inaccuracies in the press," Ald. Keeler said the next day, "and the only way to avoid this is to have open meetings." The alternatives to the plan which the parties are expected to ratify next week were: opening the library with volunteer help; renting the building from the town; return the book deposit to its original state; have the library operate as a special historical collection managed by a historical society or similar group with assistance from the main branch; offer full branch service including children's programs and film series, and the solution which found favor with those present, run the Queenston library in the same manner as a branch library with assistance from the regional board. Branch libraries in Virgil and Queenston were closed July 1 due to falling membership and budget cuts. The Sept. 25 meeting to discuss the final plans for Queenston library will be held held at the Virgil municipal offices at 8 p.m. It will be open to the public.
Niagara Advance. Sept 18, 1975

Re-opening Queenston library to cost $14,000
Council and the Niagara Regional Library have agreed to spend an estimated $14,500 to settle a squabble between aldermen and members of the town's library board over the closing of the Queenston Public Library. The Queenston library will be re-opened for a one-year experimental period next Jan. 1. In the meantime, however, the library will be run by volunteers of the Queenston Community Association. Members of town council and the library board met in Virgil last night with the mediator they called in from the regional library system to settle an argument that has raged in private for nearly three months. Last June, while council members were busy cutting department budgets, the town's library board decided to close book depositories in the two small communities of Queenston and Virgil. The move to close the buildings came just days after council members had rejected the library board's 1975 budget and cut $7,380 from the board's grant request. Library board chairman, Elizabeth Kormos, however, claimed the closings were in no way an attempt to exert political pressure on council members and had nothing to do with the cuts to the board's budget. Since the libraries closed July 1, council members have come under constant fire from Queenston area residents to re-open the building there. Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh, who donated the Queenston Community Centre to the town specifically for use as a public library, met privately with council members and warned them he was prepared to take the town to court if the library was not re-opened. . Members of the Queenston Community Association also expressed displeasure at the closing and called for the immediate re-opening of the building. Aldermen, however, failed to get all four groups together to discuss the dispute amicably and, despite a series of private meetings and the exchange of private letters between library board and council members, failed to resolve the conflict.

Both library board and town council then decided to call in a mediator to help them settle the dispute. Members of the two public bodies met in private in the St. Catharines office of Joan Robb, a consultant with the regional library system, two weeks ago. There they reached a temporary solution to their squabble. The whole library issue was discussed in public for the first time last night when library board and council members agreed to re-open the Queenston library. Under the terms of the agreement the Queenston Library will be run by volunteers of the Queenston Community Association until Jan. 1. During that period, the regional library system will conduct a special survey of Queenston residents to determine their library needs and desires. Then, starting Jan. 1, the Queenston library will be run as a branch library by the town library board for an experimental one year period. A professional library assistant will be hired by the board, at an estimated cost of $3,500, to run the library on a 15 hour-a-week basis: The Niagara-on-the-Lake library board and the regional library system will also provide the Queenston library with 2,000 books to augment its permanent collection. During the one-year experimental period the regional library system will also operate a series of special film and educational programs for school children. A special $1,000 advertising fund has also been created encourage residents to use the building.
by Peter Goodspeed. St. Catharines Standard. October 7, 1975.

Queenston Library re-opens Jan 3
The books have arrived and are on the shelves and Queenston residents will receive the services of a full branch library starting Jan. 3 The opening will take place on Saturday at 10 a.m. with Regional Library consultant Mrs. Joan Robb and Niagara-on-the-Lake Librarian Gerda Molson. An assistant librarian Mrs. Joan Meyer of Garrison Village has been hired for the Queenston operation. Mrs. Meyer has had extensive experience in school and public libraries and has been especially interested in children's programs. Mrs Molson expressed her pleasure that the library system was working as a team with the Regional Library Board, Town council, Queenston Community Association and Dr. Afrukhteh. "Information has been flowing freely between all parties concerned," Mrs. Molson said. The new schedule calls for a total of 15 hours of service per week with the building open on Tuesdays from 7-9, Thursdays 1 to 5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first load of books arrived on Dec. 17 with the balance of the 3,000 volumes installed on Dec. 29 - 30. The library was closed last July 1 due to falling membership causing a furor with council and the Queenston Community Association which necessitated mediation from the Regional Library Board. The book deposit was operated by volunteers during the summer and fall of the year while the Regional Board conducted a survey to determine the needs and desires of the community.
Niagara Advance. December 24, 1975

Queenston library costly burden, may be closed.
Residents really want community centre
After receiving a report stating the Queenston library is a financial burden of which little use is being made, council decided last night to meet with Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh, who donated the building to the town, to discuss other uses to which it might be put. The Queenston library has been operating on a trial basis for 15 hours a week since the beginning of this year after it was nearly closed down by the town library board a year and a half ago. The one-year trial period is almost over, however, and council met last night to discuss a report on the experiment by Regional library consultant Joan Robb.

Mrs. Robb acted as mediator last year in the controversy that erupted following the library board's decision to close down the library. The decision caused Dr. Afrukhteh to threaten the town with court action if the library were not re-opened, but all parties finally agreed to the one-year trial period. Mrs. Robb's report states that the Queenston library is simply too costly to merit continuing as a library. She estimates that the Regional library system has poured $6,000 in operating expenses into the library, while only 4,000 books have been borrowed so far this year.

A second problem is that the QCA wants to use the library building as a community centre, but social activities involving food and drink cannot be permitted in a library. Mrs. Robb reported many of the Queenston residents she interviewed told her it was a community centre they really wanted. The QCA has used the building for meetings, confining refreshments to the basement, and this led to more difficulties, as librarian Laura Meyer has not been sure how many people in the community had access to the building. Mrs. Robb also critized the town for not maintaining the library grounds, noting that grass went uncut, snow was not always shovelled and rubbish piled up in the basement caused the fire inspector to issue a warning.

At last night's meeting, QCA president Beverly Allan told council that Queenston residents were in basic agreement with Mrs. Robb that the building should become a community centre, allowing it to be used for meetings and recreation programs. She also welcomed Mrs. Robb's suggestion that a paperback library might be set up in the building. Paperback books can be obtained quite cheaply by libraries, and many such libraries operate successfully on an honor system so there is no need for staff supervision.

After reading Mrs. Robb's report and listening to Mrs. Allan, council discussed whether Dr. Afrukhteh might be willing to have the building used a community centre instead of a library. The agreement made between Dr. Afrukhteh and the town stipulates that the building must remain in as a library in perpetuity. Council decided to appoint a committee composed of Lord Mayor Jake Froese, Ald. Bert King and Ald. Harold Clement, along with representatives from the library board and the QCA, to meet with Dr. Afrukhteh to discuss the library's future in the light of Mrs. Robb's report. Council decided not to set any policy on what it considers to be the best use of the building until after the committee has reported on its meeting with Dr. Afrukhteh.
by John Spears. St. Catharines Standard. October 1, 1976

Readers must find the key before borrowing books
QUEENSTON — This historic community has finally resolved what to do with its library, a 120-year-old converted church building which cost $50,000 to restore. The library will be closed, and if you want a book, you will have to call a member of the Queenston Community Association, who will then open the building.

The building was donated to the town by Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh a couple of years ago, but the funds have not been available to operate it. "And there is no way the Queenston Community. Association could run it on a volunteer basis," said Gloria Ghetti, acting president of the association. Town of Niagara clerk, J. Y. Fleming, said that if people want to borrow a book they'll probably have to contact either association members or the library board.

Starting in January the town will spend about $1,500 to construct a paperback library in the basement of the building. The hardcover books will remain on the main floor of the structure which is across the street from the Laura Secord homestead. The association said the library will not be staffed and would only be opened during times a community group is using it for meetings. Dr. Afrukhteh has stipulated the building not be used for flea markets. "We just couldn't open the building all the time without anyone staffing it," said Mr. Fleming. "That would only invite vandalism." Dr. Afrukhteh said he was going to donate the building to the Ontario Heritage Association if the association did not agree to his terms, but he seemed happy with the closed-door policy. "I'm glad we're working this out with the town and the Queenston people. I didn't really want to give the building to the Ontario Heritage. I think we are burdening our government agencies with too many decisions as it is," he said.

Perhaps we are all too casual about access to books and libraries. Queenston should change all that by instilling a proper sense of occasion to the borrowing of books. The 120-year-old church building which was converted to a library at a cost of $50,000 will be closed because there aren't any funds for actually operating it. However, if you want a book, you may call a member of the Queenston Community Association and he or she will hurry over with a key to open up the treasures of the mind. This is very decent of them, but we expect that some may be less gracious than others about letting the reader browse among the books. You can't really enjoy a library while the keeper of the keys drums his fingers on a shelf, consults his watch, or fidgets by the door. The literary equivalent of asking for the key to the gas station washroom may bring a new respect into book borrowing, but one suspects there must be a better way.
Globe and Mail. November 15, 1976

Historic Queenston building will be used by community
The Queenston Community Association will once again have a community centre in the village following the association's acceptance of a proposal made at a special meeting last week. The building, originally a Baptist church of historical significance, was purchased by Dr. Afrukhteh and deeded over to the town with the understanding that the building be used as a library. After extensive restoration work by members of the Queenston Community Association, a book deposit was established which also permitted the building to be used for various meetings and activities. However the book deposit was not used sufficiently and the town's library board decided to suspend the service. An experimental full branch library was established through the Regional Library system in an attempt to satisfy all parties concerned. The operation of the full library eliminated the use of the building as a community centre and has not been used sufficiently to justify the service.
In meeting with Dr. Afrukhteh and members of the Queenston Community Association, it was decided that a soft cover library operated on the honor system would offer adequate service to area residents and permit the restored building to be used as a community centre. The plan was unanimously accepted by members of the Queenston Community Association and will go into effect the first of the new year.
"The Queenston Community Association will work hand in hand with the town," said Gloria Ghetti, following last week's special meeting. Mrs. Ghetti is vice-president of the Association and was chairman of the meeting. Mrs. Ghetti explained the building will be operated in the same way as the old town hall and will be rented to various groups with non-profit organizations receiving special consideration. No hours have been established for the soft cover library but Mrs. Ghetti noted that access to the books could be handled in conjunction with other programs to be held in the building. The Queenston Community Association is also anxious to complete the planned improvements to the acoustics. "We've had styrofoam slabs stored for some time now," said Mrs. Ghetti "and we can get on with the work once we get some direction from the town. Once we get various programs going there will be something to bring the people back again and interest will be renewed," Mrs. Ghetti concluded.
Niagara Advance. November 18, 1976


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Articles about closing a branch of Niagara Public Library in Queenston due to declining membership, re-opening it again for a one-year experimental period in January 1976 and closing permanently after that time. The final decision was made to use the historic building as community centre.
Articles published by local newspapers (and national" Globe and Mail") between June 25, 1975 and November 18, 1976.
Two black and white photographs with captions:
No Meeting House
"Letters and phone calls continue to fly over Queenston Library, closed by the library board in June because of falling circulation, but the parties concerned still refuse to sit down at a meeting to discuss the problem. Niagara-on-the-Lake council, the library board and the Queenston Community Association have made proposals and counter proposals for a meeting, but none has been agreed to. Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh, who donated the building to the town with the stipulation that it be used as a library and who has threatened to sue the town if it is not reopened, has refused to attend any such all-parties meeting and the haggling goes on"
Evening Tribute. September 9, 1975.
Mrs. Gerda Molson with Mrs. Joan Meyer
"Full branch library service started at Queenston last Saturday. The library which will be conducted as an experiment for a period of one year has an extensive book collection and will offer various children's programs throughout the year The Library is open from 7 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursdays 15 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. and every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Niagara on the Lake Librarian Mrs. Gerda Molson (standing) examines the collection with Oueenston's assistant librarian Mrs. Joan Meyer."
Photo by Ron Delage. Niagara Advance. January 8, 1976
Date of Publication:
1975
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Local identifier:
NOTLPL00165
Language of Item:
English
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Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Closing the Queenston Library


Articles about closing a branch of Niagara Public Library in Queenston due to declining membership, re-opening it again for a one-year experimental period in January 1976 and closing permanently after that time. The final decision was made to use the historic building as community centre.
Articles published by local newspapers (and national" Globe and Mail") between June 25, 1975 and November 18, 1976.
Two black and white photographs with captions:
No Meeting House
"Letters and phone calls continue to fly over Queenston Library, closed by the library board in June because of falling circulation, but the parties concerned still refuse to sit down at a meeting to discuss the problem. Niagara-on-the-Lake council, the library board and the Queenston Community Association have made proposals and counter proposals for a meeting, but none has been agreed to. Dr. Djamal Afrukhteh, who donated the building to the town with the stipulation that it be used as a library and who has threatened to sue the town if it is not reopened, has refused to attend any such all-parties meeting and the haggling goes on"
Evening Tribute. September 9, 1975.
Mrs. Gerda Molson with Mrs. Joan Meyer
"Full branch library service started at Queenston last Saturday. The library which will be conducted as an experiment for a period of one year has an extensive book collection and will offer various children's programs throughout the year The Library is open from 7 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursdays 15 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. and every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Niagara on the Lake Librarian Mrs. Gerda Molson (standing) examines the collection with Oueenston's assistant librarian Mrs. Joan Meyer."
Photo by Ron Delage. Niagara Advance. January 8, 1976