A library expansion is sorely needed, the crowd attending a public meeting held at the Rimbey Community Centre last week was told.
In her opening remarks, library board chairman Rowena Aitken explained why the library needed to expand.
“When we moved into our current space 10 years ago, we only gained 300 square feet and no separate room for meetings or programs, and we are much busier now.”
She said Rimbey Municipal Library is one of the busiest libraries for its size in Alberta, offering more than 393 programs with approximately 6,255 people attending them.
“Library staff and volunteers made these programs work as best they could, however, it is clear that we simply don’t have enough space,” she said. “Our proposed move into the other half of the municipal building is not only the most cost and time effective solution but will better accommodate our increasing library usage for a long time to come.”
Librarian Jean Keetch said safety is also an issue. “It is not safe for staff or patrons.”
“There are cords running everywhere and it’s only a matter of time and somebody is going to trip and fall and we’re liable for this safety,” added Aitken.
The library offers a variety of programs and events including Mother’s Day teas and wine tasting — opening itself up to some criticism.
However, board members believe these programs fall under the umbrella of literacy and allow patrons to participate in lifelong learning experiences in an enjoyable and pleasant environment.
Keetch said expanding to the rear of the town office is not a viable option.
“If you go straight back there isn’t enough space without putting a second story on. If you go back and to the east you have an L-shaped addition which gives you a large space, which has a no line of sight, which is contrary to library best practices. And both of those options take up valuable parking space.”
She said building another storey onto the town office is an expensive undertaking.
“It would work, but if people are concerned about the cost to taxpayers that is the more expensive option and would necessitate the installation of an elevator.”
Space at the Co-op has been ruled out because the rent would be $60,000 a year, the library would be allowed no windows and the cost of moving the Supernet would run about $42,321.
“There is also no room for growth,” said Keetch.
Moving to Al Ingle s’s building on the south side of Main Street is not a viable option as the 4,000 square-foot building is too small.
Paul Payson, the council representative on the library board, said the proposed move to the Provincial Building, and the expansion of the library into the town offices is a low cost alternative to the space crunch.
“There is no a tax increase for this move. The moving and renovation costs (approximately $50,000) is already budgeted for and the rent is zero. The utility costs ($2,700 a month) are fairly equivalent to what we pay now.”
“The town office is not the centre of a small town’s world, the library kind of is,” he said, noting statistics show there were 37,000 visits to the library in 2012 compared to around 7,000 stops at the town office.
He said the upcoming plebiscite is not about allowing the library to expand but rather asking the taxpayers if they want it to expand into the town offices.
“We are not voting on the library expansion. We are voting on allowing the library to expand into the municipal building. The voters cannot keep the library from expanding.”
Ron Sheppard, director of Parkland Regional Library, said Rimbey library is too small.
“It is one of the busiest and most successful libraries not only in Parkland, but in the province of Alberta and it is too small.”
Payson said council has no alternate plan if residents vote against the move.
“A No vote could delay the library expansion for a number of years and it will definitely not be expanding this summer.”
He said a new town council, if voted in in the fall municipal election, may wish to pursue a different direction.
“This council has no plan B,” he said.
Keetch said if the expansion doesn’t place a decrease in library services will most certainly occur.
“Patrons will no longer be able to plug in their laptops due to inaccessible power supplies. We will not be hiring three summer students as in the past due to lack of office space and if we have less staff there will be less programming. Any program that requires chairs and tables to be brought up from the basement will be cancelled.”
Keetch added renovations could be made to the town office to accommodate the library for under
$5,000 and the town’s drop-off box for bills would remain intact.
She said a $500,000 plan for the library that includes a fireplace, soft seating, a social media room, increased book catalogue, office space and quiet areas could be a reality in the future depending on grants, donations and fundraising.
The ballots on the June 3 plebiscite will provide background information stating the library is growing and the town has proposed selling the existing municipal building to the library board for $1 and moving town administration to the Provincial Building with no increase in operating costs.
The question on the ballots will state: “Under these circumstances, do you agree the library should expand into the existing municipal building resulting in the town office relocating to the Provincial Building?”