Library request on the table. Board has wish list for new library
After 149 years in the same place, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library is ready for a new home.
Dave Eke, chairman of the facilities committee for the library and vice-chairman of the library board, spoke at the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night, requesting official support from the town for the development of a new library.
The responsibility of the library, said the former alderman, is to provide competent and efficient service reflecting the community's unique needs and proper housing of the library's resources and services. In the increasingly cramped quarters at the Court House, where the library board rents space from the town, those responsibilities are becoming more difficult to fulfill, he pointed out.
Gerda Molson, head librarian, said there are many things she would like to see for the library but that with current restrictions are impossible. A music CD collection would be nice, she said, pointing out the library couldn't possibly fit in one more collection, and comfortable seating for reading or studying, where borrowers aren't squeezing by the chair to reach a rack, is also on her wish list.
Their formal request for a new home, made to aldermen two weeks before a town staff recommendation is expected that will detail the future development of the Regional Road 55 property, was made at the suggestion of the town, Molson said.
Eke explained the board has done a study on active library users and discovered half are from the outlying areas, noting the Regional Road 55 site would be suitable to address the library's needs and be accessible to all the residents who frequent the library.
The new facility, said Eke, would need to be barrier-free for those with physical disabilities, pointing out the current library is not only down a flight of stairs to the entrance but on many levels inside the building as well; it should be large enough for proper storage of all the resources with room to run programs and offer services; it should have available parking; and it should be adequate to the needs of the employees, with private employee areas, washroom facilities and room to work.
Aside from the Regional Road 55 property as a potential site, Molson said the board has looked at every conceivable option, including schools, new developments and expanding the current space. The best solution, she said, is to build a new facility on land already owned by the town.
The board, said Eke, is currently looking at ways to finance the move but hopes to see some funding from the town, funding he said could be recovered through rental fees to whomever takes over the current Court House site once the library vacates.
Alderman Allen Snider, acting as chair of the Corporate Services committee, told Eke that it is a "major issue" and the town will deal with the request and keep the board informed.
Lew Holloway, chief administrative officer, said the town council will have to decide first whether the library should move, then decide where and how the move will be carried out.
The NOTL Public Library was the first in Canada, founded in 1800, surviving the War of 1812 and fires of 1813. If a new facility goes ahead, it will be the first built specifically for use as a library in NOTL.