The library, a vibrant place

April 23, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Todd Taylor

In small commuter towns such as Orangeville it is imperative that we maintain a vibrant community. Many discussions have been had over the years about saving taxes by cutting funding to our social outlets. We talked about closing Tony Rose pool, complained loudly when the Alder street arena was built, and even advocated to close the library. My plan this week is to share why our libraries in Orangeville should be utilized, enjoyed, preserved, and invested in.

The Mill Street Library is one of my favorite heritage buildings in Orangeville. Andrew Carnegie is the very famous American philanthropist who funded the genesis of many libraries in North America. In the early 1900’s Carnegie agreed to make a financial contribution to our town with the sole purpose being library construction. Today, the exterior of the building remains a glorious throwback to times of yesteryear. The recent renovations allow the building to benefit from bright open spaces that are barrier free and offer a spectacular entrance way through giant books. The changes have noticeably increased foot traffic within the downtown location.

The true reason people openly pine for the closing of the Alder Library is that they think it will save taxes. Financially there is minimal benefit to the tax payer by ridding ourselves of Alder. The elimination of the library would also jeopardise our relationship with Humber college, displace local jobs, create an another empty space in our arena, and deprive families of something positive to do in town. The firing of the front line part-time staff who act as public service assistants and pages would create savings of approximately $300,000, yet the loss of the revenue generated  through the Humber college agreement would offset a large portion of the tax savings. It would be difficult for the Humber program to continue with no library to access materials or study in. Lastly, the library’s status and eligibility for provincial grants would be diminished if it were no longer able to offer at least basic services. A community the size of Orangeville must maintain 86,700 items if we are to remain accredited member of the provincial library association. Alder currently houses 40,000 items which Mill Street’s small space would not be able to absorb.

A Dufferin county run library system may be a way to gain efficiencies and ease the burden on tax payers. The true answer currently is that no region in Dufferin county would want to deal with Orangeville currently. Our dysfunctional political environment would make negotiations improbable, if not impossible. In addition, the costing of such an agreement has never been fully investigated. There would need to be a political will to determine costs through a comprehensive business plan/cost analysis. Library Board Chair Councillor Scott Wilson shared that “the first thing to solve would be a cost sharing agreement between municipalities. Areas such as Mulmur and Melancthon would most likely want a physical building/library service where they do not currently have this today. Tax payers outside of Orangeville would need to take on more costs, while giving up control of more of their tax dollars if they were to be part of a county wide library solution. The intriguing thing about a county wide library is that service, appearance, choice, and access to materials (would all increase) due to the pooling of resources.”

Typically people go to a library to enjoy the collection, do research, and learn. The children in our town have benefitted greatly from the programs such as lego events, book readings, teen advisory group, and tech help are all very well attended by the young families. Adults also enjoy events at the library, in 2017 Giller prize winner Michael Redhill visited with great fanfare while creative writing groups offer workshops under a new partnership with the Headwaters Writers Guild. The library is certainly a vibrant and productive place!

I think it is also worth noting that the leadership of our library, its board, and staff is an incredibly capable group. Chief Librarian Darla Fraser, Board Chair Scott Wilson, and Vice Chair Bill Rea have made significant progress during this term of council. Implementing a new library software and finally arriving at a solution with the towns of Mono, Amaranth, and East Garafraxa on user based fees are bold accomplishments that have been issues for quite some time.

We are fortunate to be able to go to one place for hockey, swimming, gymnastics, studies, and the enjoyment of literature. In my view, Orangeville is incredibly well heeled to have such a wondrous library.

Any further conversations about closing a building should be “shelved”.

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