For more than a decade, library staff and patrons have been saying there’s simply not enough room in the existing Bracebridge library for the facility to function as a 21st Century library should.
However, Library CAO Cathryn Rodney says after a prolonged struggle to move their expansion plans forward, there’s a new sense of optimism around the 108-year-old library building.
Up until recently, the only option being considered by the Town and library board was to take over the next door post office (which is currently for sale) and expand onto that property. That changed earlier this year, when Mayor Graydon Smith convinced the rest of council to consider two more options: a joint facility connected to a new arena, or an entirely new location altogether.
“That resolution was a real morale booster for staff,” says Rodney. “It gave us a sense that we’re moving forward with this project instead of just stalling. My predecessor went to council in 2002 with a presentation to say that the library needed space and … our numbers have only continued to go up and up since then.”
The first option – to take over the next door post office – was studied in depth as part of an architect’s report finished in 2012. In that report, the architect recommended tearing down the existing post office completely, as well as the library’s addition, which was built at the back of the building in 1984.
“The (post office) building really isn’t compatible and I think the architect’s recommendation to tear it down was really the best one,” says Rodney.
The Town has expressed interest in the property, and are currently waiting on soil testing and word back from the federal government.
One major issue with option one is that it would require the library’s current location to be closed for a year at minimum, while the construction was carried out. With either of the other two options, they could simply move in when the new facility is ready.
The architect pegged the cost of option one at between $10 and $11 million, but Rodney says a new library built in conjunction with an arena might be a cheaper alternative. She says it might also help solve another problem – which facility should be built first.
“There always seems to be this ‘us versus them’ argument when it comes to the arena, and building them together would take that out of the equation” says Rodney.
The joint facility idea has worked in other Ontario communities. Rodney says most are much smaller than Bracebridge, but there are also facilities in the similarly sized communities of Keswick and Whitchurch-Stoufville.
“We hope to get some feedback from them on what’s involved, how it’s working for them, the pros and cons basically,” says Rodney.
Option three would be to move the library to an entirely new location on its own.
“That would have to meet the board’s criteria for a suitable location and that doesn’t mean the outskirts of town,” says Rodney. “I think people have been afraid that we were going to move to the outskirts because that’s what happened with the Sportsplex, the Town office and the high school.”
The board has yet to identify a suitable property, says Rodney, but they’re hoping the Town will help them out and they can come up with some options shortly.
She says the goal is to give council a report on all three options by June.
“There’s been no decision reached yet by the board on which option they favour, and ultimately the final decision is in the hands of council,” says Rodney.