New NOTL Public Library welcomes visitors
If weather is an omen for the future then last Saturday's blue skies and crisp autumn air foretell a future of prosperity and knowledge for those who seek it in Niagara-on-the-Lake's newest landmark.
Hundreds of NOTL residents gathered last Saturday to celebrate the opening of one of NOTL's newest buildings, a place that will house one of the town's - and Canada's - oldest institutions, the NOTL Public Library.
"Our public library has succeeded in preserving our heritage," said Lord Mayor Art Viola in the opening ceremonies. "With the establishment of our new library our heritage is guaranteed."
Comments from other dignitaries echoed the sentiments of the lord mayor's remarks.
"I'm glad to see that our roving library has found a new home, a home that is accessible to all," said Niagara Falls and NOTL MP Gary Pillitteri, who publicly announced a $5,000 gift from the federal government "to preserve the heritage of the library in Niagara-on-the-Lake."
For the politicians and those involved in the battle to build the new library, Saturday was a victory celebration.
"This event happened because the library board and the town council did the right thing for the right reason," said Dave Eke, library board chair and candidate for Regional Council.
But not all residents of the town shared in the enthusiasm.
"I am here not to celebrate but to cry," said Clara Tarnoy. "I think this is a black day for Niagara-on-the-Lake."
Tarnoy, a long-time environmental activist and Green party candy-date for the upcoming federal election, lives in a retirement residence in Old Town. Many of the seniors in her residence enjoyed the convenience of having a library down-town, she said, as they can't walk any great distance, and most don't drive.
Ruth Klopka is a resident of Niagara Falls, but she frequents NOTL's library regularly and is actively involved in this community. Klopka said she likes the atmosphere of the new facility.
"It's fabulous, what I love about it is all the daylight," she said. "You don't feel encapsulated here."
Yet, as a person who volunteers her time to read to seniors and the visually impaired, she shares some of the same concerns as Tarnoy.
"I hope and pray that they (the town) will have consideration for senior people unable to drive, and that the town will provide a shuttle service at certain times."
While the move represents a problem of accessibility for some, for others such as the NOTL residents who don't live in Old Town the move is a welcome one.
"I think it's what we needed," said Virgil resident Susan Vriens. "I think for the majority of us it will be a lot better for parking."
Vriens, a mother of two, said she will probably use the library more because of this.
"It's nice and big and there's lots of space," said 10-year-old Emily Bjorgan, a Grade 5 student at St. Davids Public School. "There's lots of stuff for kids."
The building combines the warmth of NOTL's heritage with modern design, without the impression of being in an institution. It's warm and inviting with nearly all of the ambient light coming from outside and not from humming electric fixtures, although they are still present.
The library is designed much like an open-space concept home. As you enter from the foyer you are only a few steps from the grand rotunda, the centrepiece of the library, an oval-shaped domed structure with a skylight in the top and a circle of windows around the base that provide the building with its source of natural light. Majestic white pillars encircle the base giving the impression that you have entered a place of "higher learning," but do not obstruct of the rows of books which fan out to the back corners of the building.
To the left of the grand rotunda is the adult's corner, complete with high-backed armchairs and a gas fireplace. To the right is the children's area which will soon resemble a medieval structure assembled from shelves made in primary colours. The space was designed with the family angle in mind, said children's program director Gerrie Barnim. Yet children by nature are a rambunctious lot and the designers took this into consideration as well.
"Now we'll be able to dance up a storm in there (the activities room) and not bother a single soul," said Barnim. "It's really a dream come true for us. We're delighted to be here."
The public's appreciation of the library is what chief librarian Gerda Molson enjoyed the most about last Saturday.
"What's truly exciting is people's reaction. They're really excited and thrilled about what they are seeing."
While the library was open for viewing last Saturday, today at 9 a.m. marks the start of service in the new building.
The Old Town fire department expects to get settled in its new home Monday.