PICKERING -- In a community where the pool is a creek and the ice rink is made by volunteers, at least leave the library, says a Greenwood resident.
“The residents of Greenwood pay taxes and ask for little in return,” John Wager said, adding closing it would indicate Greenwood residents are second-class citizens.
Annette Ainsbury noted Greenwood residents pay extra for sewage and water.
“It's not water and sewage and lights that make for a great community,” the Greenwood resident said. “It's libraries, schools and community centres.”
A number of Greenwood residents attended Monday's council meeting to defend their library, after hearing of the possibility during Pickering's budget discussions that it could close. The building, built in 1860 and currently boarded up, has a dead furnace and faced a couple of floods this winter that ruined the foundation. A new furnace will cost $8,000 and estimates for foundation repairs could set the City back $50,000 to $100,000. Circulation at the branch has also decreased by about half since 2000.
Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles said although a library is not a huge money-maker, it adds to a community. He introduced a motion to put $50,000 into a contingency fund so if the City decides to fix it up, money will be there. Council agreed, and will decide its fate once more estimates come in.
“If we didn't have a library there, it's still an important building. We heard that this evening,” Coun. Pickles said, adding either way, it should be repaired.
Chief Administrative Officer Tom Quinn said he and library CEO Cynthia Mearns will “do some digging” and provide a report to council.
Lucy Wetherall moved to Greenwood a year ago, mostly so her kids could have a school and library within walking distance. She said although it's been noted the Whitevale branch is busier than Greenwood, Whitevale has convenient hours. Greenwood's hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. Whitevale is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
“Going to the library is almost impossible,” she said, adding more than 50 school-aged kids in the community could benefit from after-school library hours.
Mr. Wager said he gets home from work at 7:10 p.m. and can't make it to the library the one evening it's open. He would like to see Saturday hours and suggested adding more programs to promote literacy.
Ms. Wetherall said the building is historical, a former school which former prime minister John Diefenbaker once attended and where his father taught.
“Pickering should be happy to have such a great building,” she said.
Ward 3 Regional Councillor Rick Johnson noted the Heritage Pickering Advisory Committee is currently going through motions on how to make it a heritage structure “and I'm in full support of that.”
GREENWOOD - Greenwood residents want their library branch to stay.
A January flood, a dead furnace and a more recent flood, along with a continuous decline in circulation, has forced the library board and the City to make some tough decisions.
At last week's budget meeting, Cynthia Mearns, Pickering Library CEO, presented Greenwood's case, requesting advice from Council on whether or not to keep it open. She noted despite the PIckering Public LIbrary's 43% increase in circulation since 2000, the Greenwood branch's has decreased from 7,000 to less than 3,500 items in 2007.
“Whitevale has surpassed Breenwood in the number items going out,” she said, adding fewer people live in Whitevale.
Costs per circulation also far surpass the other branches, and the library budget has not increased significantly over recent years. She said the furnace replacement would cost $8,000 and estimates to fix the foundation are ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, but more estimates will still come in.
“We want to get it resolved to everybody's satisfaction as quickly as we can,” she later said in an interview.
While Ward 2 City Councillor Doug Dickerson said closing it seems to be the logical business-minded decision, Ward 3 City Councillor David Pickles said Greenwood doesn't have many City facilities and “it needs City presence in it.” He also said fixing the furnace is a must in order to maintain the building.
Ward 3 Regional Councillor Rick Johnson said the library's fate is something residents should help decide, especially since a number have said the building is important, mostly due to its age.
“We can't shun the federal government and the provincial government for neglecting heritage buildings then turn around and neglect it,” he said. He added the first step is to hold a public meeting.
The City-owned building was erected around 1860, and became a library around 1980. City clerk Debi Wilcox said the Heritage Advisory Committee will discuss whether it deserves heritage designation.
Ward 2 Regional Councillor Bill McLean then called a motion to defer the cost to fix the furnace, which was narrowly passed. A decision on whether to fix it and replace the foundation will come to Council after information is collected, which could be as early as Monday.
Around 40 residents attended the meeting with the board and Councillor Pickles Wednesday, with the majority complaining about the library's odd hours: Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m.
Caitlyn Carson, a 16-year-old student at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate, said she'd appreciate after-school hours at the Greenwood branch since community to and from the school library is a “pain” considering she relies on a yellow school bus.
And, since she only has a dial-up internet connection, she'd use the library more for the computers if it has convenient hours.
Younger kids at the meeting said they'd appreciate summer library hours. Adults said they work when it's open.
Jean Ferrier, the librarian at Valley View Public School in Greenwood, said the kids often use the library since the school's collection is small and old.
“It's ideal that they have a local library to access like the rest of the students in the board,” she said.
Nicole Igel spoke on behalf of a number of residents and said a lot of people chose to move to Greenwood in the first place because of its local library and school, and enjoy its close proximity.
She suggested not increasing the hours, but changing them to more convenient times. She said the changing of programs, such as Story Time, have also caused a decline in usage. She suggested trying various programs, such as poetry readings or movie nights.
“I don't know what better use for that building than a library,” she said.
Councillor Pickles told residents each year he and Councillor Johnson defend the Greenwood Library and he hopes it remains open.
Since 2004, each December, the Pickering Public Library checks out it's one millionth item for the year. This milestone is achieved earlier each year and our libraries and library staff continuing to sustain its high level of service to Pickering.
As a member of the Library Board from 1997 to 2003, I appreciated the excellent work of public volunteers on the Library Board and Library staff on this project.
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