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Library expansion decision looming large for TBM council

Library usage continues to grow and the current building getting cramped, expansion is on the horizon
l.e. shore library
The L.E. Shore Library in Thornbury.

The Blue Mountains council will soon have to make a decision on the potential future expansion of library services in the town.

Town council and The Blue Mountains Public Library Board held a joint meeting on Nov. 30 to discuss the future of library services.

At the meeting, the library board presented data they say shows the current library facility in Thornbury is bursting at the seams and future expansion is inevitable.

“We’re going to demonstrate, we believe, a need for expansion,” said Julia Scott, vice-chair of the library board at the outset of the meeting.

The board’s presentation showed that usage of the library has continued to grow back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of both visits to the facility and the circulation of materials. Over 50 per cent of residents in the town are active card holders for the library - this number is significantly higher than other neighbouring communities.

The library also runs hundreds of programs per year for residents of all ages from children to seniors. However, their programs for teens have fallen off the pace because the library lacks an appropriate space for teenagers.

The numbers also showed that growth is expected to continue. It is a generally accepted industry ideal that a rural public library would have one square foot per resident. The current building is 9,000 square feet and the population of the town is expected to grow to more than 11,000 people in the next couple of years.

“It’s clear to everybody that we are growing,” said Scott, adding that the library needs more space. “We are at a current shortfall. It will become more dire as our community continues to grow.”

With future expansion on the horizon, the question for council will be what form that expansion takes. There is space to expand the current building in Thornbury. Another option is a second library branch in Craigleith to service that area of the town. A third possibility is the library being part of a new multi-use facility that the town is currently exploring with the Town of Collingwood.

Outgoing library CEO Dr. Sabrina Saunders (her last day with the local library was the day of the meeting) said council will have to choose what form future expansion will take.

“Council needs to make a decision on how they want to provide services across the community,” she said.

At the meeting, the library board requested that the incoming library CEO formally be part of the town’s discussions with Collingwood about a multi-use facility.

“Whatever building we end up being put into – the new CEO needs to be at the table,” said Saunders.

Ultimately, council chose not to formally appoint the library CEO to the multi-use feasibility study committee – even though Collingwood’s library CEO is part of the group. Council voted to include potential expanded library services in the study, but a separate motion to appoint the library CEO to the review committee was defeated in a 2-3 vote. Councillors June Porter and Shawn McKinlay were in favour. Mayor Andrea Matrosovs was absent and Coun. Paula Hope had left the meeting for another engagement.

Ryan Gibbons, the town’s director of community services and the project manager on the multi-use feasibility study, said the library would be a key part of the discussions. The committee is in the process of putting an RFP out to select a consultant for the project.

“The library CEO will be part of that process. That was our intent from day one,” said Gibbons.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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