I am writing this in support of a decision concerning the future of our library. In light of recent developments with regard to the Kentville Library and the pending demolition of the current one, the issue is now gaining momentum with those of us who believe that the town should be moving forward with a new library space.
For a number of years, our busy library and its devoted employees have served the public under circumstances that have been less than ideal. It is housed in a converted car dealership/garage space with limited parking and, several years ago, there was considerable water damage to some of the books, shelving and desk units from flooding within the building.
Library CEO Lorraine McQueen states that in 2013-2014, the Kentville branch was the busiest in the Valley region with 5,700 active users. It signed out 83,000 items and ran 250 programs in that year. Coming a close second, and third, to Kentville are the Windsor and Wolfville libraries. And yet it is interesting to note that the Kentville Library occupies the smallest amount if space at just over 2,000 square feet – probably the smallest space per capita of the 12 other libraries operating in the Valley area.
It appears that other towns are able to move forward with newer or bigger spaces. For example, Windsor has a relatively new and larger building, the Hantsport Library will be soon moving into a newly renovated space and Berwick, now operating out of the old Berwick School, has plans to be part of a new addition to the Kings Mutual Centre.
Since a required move is now in the future for our library, this could be the opportunity for Kentville to step forward and give the library the priority and focus it deserves! Why are there constantly barriers that impede any progress to this ongoing project?
The library should portray the civic pride of its town. It should be a gathering hub for both young and old, a safe place for the many seniors residing in the downtown area to meet, learn and socialize. It needs a larger, less crowded space to provide more programs for the users and designated areas within the building for meetings and more computers. The potential is endless! There could be an outdoor green space with benches and garden areas for all ages to enjoy. Where in Kentville is this available now? Where can our seniors safely relax in the town perimeters during the summer months? There are only a few picnic tables scattered around the town – a few by the ball field complexes and at the entrance to the Miner’s Marsh. This kind of area could be incorporated in conjunction with a new library.
There must be funding available from the provincial and federal governments, as well as the municipality. Grants under literacy and seniors’ programs are available in many instances such as this. Monies were raised through the devoted and tireless efforts of the now disbanded Friends of the Library back a few years ago. Even that project ended in frustration and a failure to find a home for a new library.
The response by the town to a citizen question in the Kentville newsletter back in March, regarding tenders for a new library, was this:
“At the current time there are not plans to construct a new library. The current REP is for new space. Council and senior staff continue to work with current bidders to ensure the best possible space is negotiated. Issues such as vacant space, new space and abandoned space can create challenges when evaluating the spaces and attempting to compare apples to apples. At the current time financial challenges are competing with space selection. There is not defined support from the feds, province or County of Kings to support a space which serves a population that is approximately 50 per cent non-Kentville residents.”
Perhaps other towns that are boasting newer and bigger libraries could be canvassed to find out how they were able to overcome the obstacles quoted by our town. We have land for sale here in the downtown core of Kentville which lies in close proximity to Kings Riverside Court. Take some of our own property and build on it. Create a community hub for our citizens and visitors, include the AVL headquarters and make it a drawing card for visitors to come to Kentville. Bring the Friends of the Library back to life, share civic enthusiasm amongst the citizens. This could revive some badly-needed excitement and progress to our town. We have enough abandoned buildings and empty commercial spaces. Let’s move forward with a new, proactive plan and give Kentville and area a library that serves as a focal attraction to the town.
We have the ball fields, the soccer fields and now a new skatepark – why can’t we also have a new and progressive library to serve all ages of our town and surrounding area? The time has come for our mayor and council to step forward and make this a priority for its citizens!