| Nov 06, 2008

Nov 6/08 - Library Board Comes to NF

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Feature Article - November 6, 2008 Library Board comes to North FrontenacBy Jeff Green

The Board of Directors of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL) ordered the Plevna branch closed over 18 months ago, citing health and safety concerns over a mould problem in the Clar-Mill hall, where the branch has been located for many years.

Since then the township has taken measures to improve the air quality in the hall, but a persistent drainage problem that cannot be fixed has led the township to conclude that the hall must be replaced. The latest plan for the library calls for the use of a portable classroom that has been offered by the Limestone District School Board.

The KFPL is run as a partnership; the local townships are responsible for the facilities, and the library board, which is funded through tax levies in the city of Kingston (87%) and Frontenac County (13%), are responsible for providing books, staffing the branches, and providing an online search and reservation service.

During the time the Plevna branch has been closed a series of letters have gone back and forth between the township and the library staff, which have at times fostered antagonism.

This came to a head last month, when a library staff report to the library board called for the board to consider that since the portable library would be larger than the combined size of the Plevna and Ompah branches, the two could be combined.

The motion resulting from this report was ultimately deferred at a meeting of the library board. Last week, a sizable delegation from the library came to a meeting of North Frontenac Council in Snow Road. The delegation included the two rural library board members, Wilma Kenny (Sydenham) and Ralph Gatfield (Sharbot Lake), County Council rep Jim Vanden Hoek, along with Board Chair Claudette Bradshaw (a Kingston city councilor) and Chief Librarian Deborah Defoe. The goal was, seemingly, to clear the political air.

“We have had difficulties with our service to the north,” said Claudette Bradshaw, “I guess we are here to listen.”

“The current situation came about when a portable classroom became available to us,” said North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire. “The fly in the ointment is a consultant’s report recommendation that said the two libraries should be combined. It was a very emotional issue at the time and it’s the same way today. This community has been struggling to keep going and will fight to keep what it has.”

Deputy Mayor Jim Beam, who sent an angry letter to the library board when he learned that closing the Ompah branch had been raised as a possibility, said “The idea of serving two communities that are 20 km apart with one library is ludicrous. The Ompah library is small and inadequate in its current state, but improving it is tied with another issue. If there is extra space in the portable it will be employed for another community use, not to replace the Ompah library.”

Beam also pointed out that a decision to bring the portable up to Plevna has not yet been taken, and although it is being offered for free, the cost of moving it, outfitting it, supplying it with hyrdro and perhaps putting in a washroom could be up to $20,000.

“Until we know the building is coming, there is not much the library can do,” said Wilma Kenny, vice-chair of the library board.

“You'll have to bear with us a little longer, until we do our budget for 2009,” said Councilor Fred Perry.

To underline the point that North Frontenac will oppose any plan that calls for the closure of any of its libraries, Ron Maguire said, in closing, “It goes even deeper. It is a matter of preserving culture. It’s like this, if schools go, it kills communities; I would suggest that the library isn’t far behind that rationale.”

“We appreciate from what we are hearing that this is still high on everybody’s priority list,” replied Claudette Bradshaw.

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