| Jun 28, 2007


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Feature Article - June 28, 2007

Chief librarian brings facilities debate back to county

by JeffGreen

In her annual report to Frontenac County, Kingston Frontenac Public Library CEO Deborah Defoe emphasised the need for increased library facilities in South Frontenac, and the need to establish larger libraries in Central and North Frontenac.

In the rural areas, it is the townships that own and maintain the libraries in the system. The library board is responsible for operating them.

Earlier this year, in the context of South Frontenac Township’s own administrative review, Township CAO Gord Burns speculated about finding a new, larger space for the Sydenham library somewhere in the village, thus enabling the township to consolidate its own office space on George Street.

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“A larger Sydenham branch would partially address a shortage of library space in South Frontenac,” Defoe said, “but looking forward, there is projected need for 9,602 sq. feet of library space within the township by 2026. Our own facilities study from 2004 recommended that a new, larger branch also be built in Verona, one that is 5-6,000 square feet and open at least 30 hours a week. Once a Verona library is built, we see the Hartington library closing.”

South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison was reluctant to accept the assertion that the township needs to build two 5,000 square foot libraries in order to come up to standard.

“We like to think of ourselves as forward thinking in South Frontenac, but we aren’t going to run out and build libraries for people who might be here in 2050. “There are some very good libraries in the schools in Perth Road, Sydenham, Elginburg, all around the township. Does that not get included in your facilities inventory?” Davison asked.

“The thing is that school libraries close at 3:00 in the afternoon, and aren’t open in the summer,” replied KFPL rural librarian Patricia Enright.

Deborah Defoe made reference to a set of guidelines put out in 2005 a group called ARUPLO (Administrators of Rural and Urban Public Libraries of Ontario) that said even the smallest library branches need to provide “adequate choice in books and other materials” and “sufficient space to allow for patron interactions.”

The minimum size for libraries, according to the ARUPLO report, is 1,000 sq. feet with at least a 10-seat lounge area for patrons and 12 hours a week of service time.

“These are library administrators talking, not some consultant from Mississauga,” said Deborah Defoe, in reference to the company that prepared a services review for the KFPL in 2004. That report called for, among other things, the building of a new branch in Sharbot Lake, expansion of the Plevna branch, and the closure of the Ompah, Arden, Parham and Mountain Grove branches. That led to a heated public meeting in Sharbot Lake, leading the library board to put some of the rural recommendations aside when they accepted the report as a whole.

Armed with the ARUPLO report, Deborah Defoe seems to be promoting similar proposals, in presenting a timeline that includes a new Sharbot Lake library of 5,000 6,000 sq. feet in the near future, and the expansion of the Plevna library to 1,000 square feet a little later on.

“Only when the new libraries are open, will the smaller libraries be closed,” Defoe told county council. “We are sticking to these recommendations even though the Plevna library is closed at the moment,” she added.

“I’m a little bit surprised that you are still pursuing this model,” North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire said to Defoe, “when it was so roundly attacked by the people from the north not too long ago.”

“We need to serve the community of the future,” Defoe replied.

“In a large geographic area like Frontenac County, one standard doesn’t fit all,” Maguire said.

County Council received the report for information. None of the three municipalities: North, Central, or South Frontenac, has current plans to build new libraries or close any existing facilities.

An ongoing issue in North Frontenac is the Plevna branch, which is currently closed even though the building housing it, the Clar/Mill Hall, is open to the public.

The library board has recently established a rural services committee.

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