NG urged to start local independent library system
The local Friends of the Dalkeith Library haven’t spoken their final words yet.
In another bid to try to save, or by now resuscitate, the Dalkeith Library, members of the group returned to North Glengarry council last Monday to ask if the township could break off from the SDG United Counties Library jurisdiction and run library branches in the township under a separate system.
Dalkeith, St. Andrews West and Morewood libraries officially closed Sept. 6.
“Libraries are part of a community’s strength. We need a North Glengarry Library System,” said former SDG Counties Library Board vice- chair Barbara Lehtiniemi, who said that separating from the SDG system could result in cost savings.
It wouldn’t be setting a precedent for a library to operate outside of the United Counties Library system.
In 1992, a local Martintown Optimist Club opened a small library in the village’s old community centre. It ran until close to the time the new centre opened in 2008.
The library was run by volunteers and offered mainly donated and second-hand books.
Martintown resident Art Buckland used to visit the former Martintown Library and believes small community libraries can run successfully with help from volunteers and by reducing administration costs.
“It’s quite upsetting. Social institutions should be interested in upgrading the literacy of the area,” he said of the recent closures. “By removing libraries you are losing that opportunity to help the area.”
He also wonders what will happen to all the books housed in Dalkeith, St. Andrews West and Morewood libraries.
Onagh Ross, owner of Onagh's Book Nook in Martintown, used to volunteer at the former Martintown Library and said “it breaks my heart” to see any library closing.
Martintown resident Sandra Jarvo recalls about 30 years ago a Travelling Library Bus would visit rural communities at certain times once a week. “It went to all the villages; we enjoyed it,” she said.
North Glengarry Deputy Mayor and SDG United Counties Warden Jamie MacDonald – who is also an SDG United Counties Library Board member and voted against closing libraries in Dalkeith, St. Andrews West and Morewood – said “we are looking for alternative solutions. I just don’t know that we can do it ... It would be a financial decision.”
The SDG Counties Library Board voted in favour of the closures in separate votes July 29 and Sept. 6. South Glengarry Deputy Mayor Frank Prevost, a Library Board member, also voted against the closures.
Mrs. Lehtiniemi resigned from her position on the board following the first vote in July to express her disappointment with the board’s process in holding the vote in a hasty manner without first holding a public consultation.
Martintown resident Cal Martin who uses St. Andrews West Library plans to make a presentation to South Stormont Sept. 28 asking if SS can run its library branches independently, in a bid to salvage the St. Andrews West branch.
Following North Glengarry council’s meeting, Mayor Chris McDonell wondered whether the township could afford to operate its library branches in a separate system, adding staffing costs for the township to operate the Dalkeith, Alexandria and Maxville libraries could be daunting.
“It would be nice if we could do that but I don’t think we can afford it,” said Mr. McDonell. “It’s a lot of work and we don’t have people in our office who are qualified to run the library. What do you do?”
Warden Jamie MacDonald had hoped SDG United Counties Council would be able reach some sort of compromise solution to help “keep our libraries going.” The issue was expected to be discussed again at SDG United Counties Council Sept. 19.