AH to consult public about Dorset library
The Township of Algonquin Highlands will consult users the Dorset Recreation Centre about how they would like to see the space within the building that has housed the Dorset branch of the Haliburton County Public Library used in the future.
As reported earlier in the Times, last year, the library board made a recommendation that the Dorset branch, which has low circulation numbers, be converted from a full library branch to a book pick-up and drop-off depot.
The Dorset location is one of eight branches of the Haliburton County Public Library.
According to stats provided by the library board, outside of the months of July and August, the number of items circulated at the Dorset branch on a monthly basis is consistently fewer than 200, often well below that number.
Circulation numbers for April, May and June of 2017 were 116, 115 and 144, respectively. Numbers for July and August were 248 and 301, respectively. In December of 2016, the number was just more than 100, at 102.
During a January meeting, Algonquin Highlands councillors requested that a transition plan for the change be created. A staff report from parks, trails and rec manager Chris Card had indicated that most of the programming at the location would be able to continue, and that some physical renovations would allow more effective use of the space.
During a May 3 meeting, councillors received a staff report from Card suggesting a timeline of about five months for the transition. During a three-month period, the township would finalize furniture quotes and orders; rec centre staff would receive training from library staff; and members of programming groups would be contacted in order to determine a plan for the continuation of programming.
At the end of that three-month period, the library space would close for two monthS to undergo renovations, while the area housing public access computers, which is currently separate from the library space, would remain open.
During last week’s meeting, Mayor Carol Moffatt said she’d like to see the public, particularly the users of the facilities at the Dorset Recreation Centre, consulted for ideas before council made a decision about what to do with the space.
“So I wonder if council would support waiting, to take some time through the summer, and seek more public feedback,” Moffatt said. She added that, “There’s a ton of people who use that facility who maY not even know this conversation is happening.”
Councillors were supportive of seeking public feedback.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about this,” said Councillor Marlene Kyle. “We’ve talked about this space and the fact that it has been underutilized and the amount of traffic that goes through . . . some of the positive things that are going on, such as the use of the CAP [community access program] computers.”
“Also, we need to find out exactly where the county standS on it,” Kyle continued. “The county, I think, has been kind of a little bit round-about on this, they it’s underutilized, but that’s all they’ve told us.”
“So, just to clarify, it’s not the county, it’s the public library board,” said Moffatt.
While the County of Haliburton is the library’s main funding source, under the Public Libraries Act, the library is governed by a board that includes members of the public, as well as municipal representatives.
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen is Algonquin Highlands’ rep on the library board. Danielsen emphasized at last week’s meeting that the conversation about the Dorset library branch was started by the board, not Algonquin Highlands council.
“I just want to make it clear, particularly for people in the public, that this discussion started at the library board, and not here, so we’re just trying to work together to figure out what the best thing is for everybody, and I know it’s contentious and difficult,” she said. “It’s proving to be a challenge for the library board. They have to work within limited budgets and try to staff eight libraries, and they just basically look at the use of them all.”
Councillor Brian Lynch, whose wife was supervisor at the Dorset branch until she retired at the end of last month, said during the last quarter, there had been 220 visits to the library branch. Both Lynch and Danielsen noted that since the CAP area at the Dorset site is separate from the library space, this has some impact on the figures when it comes to foot traffic.
“The CAP usage and the library are divided,” Danielsen said. “So it seems to skew the number a little bit.”
Card also noted the library branch’s limited hours – it’s open eight hours a week – likely also have some bearing on its circulation figures.
Danielsen and Card will be making further inquiries to the library board about possibilities at the space, and the township will then implement a public consultation process.
Moffatt noted that more and more, libraries are becoming community hubs, not just rooms with books in them.
“I think, for me, that’s the big thing, is, I’d like us to find a way, and this is maybe where the public has some ideas, is how to have that space open more often as a public space, not just a library with books in it. And again, if folks want it to be a space that’s open eight hours a week with just books in it, so be it. I think it’s exciting to explore other opportunities.”