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Title - The View from Dundas
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Follow Me on TwitterPhillip Blancher is a writer, web geek and communications professional by trade. He has written for a number of publications in Eastern Ontario and Northern New York State and also was a weekly morning show contributor for two area radio stations. As a resident of South Dundas for the last seven years, this long-time political buff has taken on an appreciation of small-town/rural life while also being a father of four and a soccer coach. Blancher's columns on OurHometown.ca will cover a range of his interests from politics, parenthood, local history and on his favourite NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres. If you have questions or wish to contact Phillip, you can email him at pblancher@ourhometown.ca
Less is more at your (almost) local library
Phillip Blancher
OurHometown.ca

Less is more at your (almost) local library
The rural village of Williamsburg is home to one of three branches of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry County Library system located in the Township of South Dundas. The SDG County Library system announced in the Fall of 2012 a plan to improve service to the community, by merging the Morrisburg and Williamsburg branches under one roof, in Morrisburg.
PHOTO CREDIT - Facebook.com

South Dundas - January 22, 2013 - When was the last time your family went to the public library? It’s a semi-regular occurrence in our household, depending on the mood of the kids in our family. For many families in small rural communities, it is a regular habit. The local library is still an important hub and gathering place of a community.

The rural village of Williamsburg is home to one of three branches of the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry County Library system located in the Township of South Dundas. The other two locations are in the villages of Iroquois and Morrisburg. The Williamsburg library branch, one of 19 in the system, has a full range of services from books, magazines, computers with internet access and even offers Wi-Fi access as part of the Community Access Program. The library is the only place available to access these services, and do so taking up a mere 1000 square feet in the Township Office.

The SD&G County Library system announced in the Fall of 2012 a plan to improve service to the community, by merging the Morris burg and Williamsburg branches under one roof, in Morrisburg. The library’s administration has decided that merging the two branches is a good idea as it would be a modern facility affording better access. Better access unless you live in Williamsburg, which is 10 kilometres north of Morrisburg.

The new library, according to press releases, will be 2100 square feet of space, the current Morrisburg and Williamsburg branches are a combined 5000 square feet. So the library board has decided that you can improve service by cutting a branch, and making the new combined branch much smaller. This move also streamlines the library system’s branches, consolidating them along County Roads 2 and 43, with nothing in the 20-25 kilometres between.

Residents in Williamsburg are not happy about the library’s closure decision. There was no public consultation specifically in the community by the library board; users from the branch were not surveyed. The matter was only discussed at the regular library board meetings, which are open to the public, but there was no announcement of this being discussed.

“Unfair. It’s kinda inconsiderate,” said Lisa Vreman, resident of Williamsburg and a frequent user of the Williamsburg library branch about the lack of consultation from users.

The building in Williamsburg that houses the library has an uncertain fate due to the planned relocation of South Dundas’ township office to Morrisburg. Once the $4-million renovation to the old Morrisburg High School is completed, the Williamsburg property would be surplus. South Dundas already has many surplus buildings that have not been disposed of since amalgamation in the late 1990’s, the Williamsburg office would only add one more building to that pile. So far, township officials have not publicly announced what will happen to the building.

“It feels like council wants Morrisburg to be the capital city of South Dundas,” added Vreman.

Library officials did not cite the circulation numbers as a reason for the branch closure, nor was it an issue with the building. The only reason given for this change was that its to improve service. Change for change sake is never good, especially when many will lose something that is valuable to them.

The residents have started a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/SaveTheWilliamsburgLibraryBranch) to drum up awareness of library closure and there are petitions being circulated in the community. They hope this will be enough to get the library board to reconsider the closure. But what if the Library is still closed? According to the SD&G County Library, residents would be able to order books online through the library’s website, and they would be delivered in the community on a set schedule. Not an ideal solution at all. Part of the enjoyment of going to a library is discovering new books. Hard to do when looking at a computer screen; even harder if you can’t afford a computer and the library was your only access to the online world.

As a way to entice the library to stay in Williamsburg, the township could opt to keep the Williamsburg building as a meeting place and thus keep the library in its current location. It could even donate the building to the library when it becomes surplus. If the township can rebuild a community hall in Dunbar, for a hamlet of 20 homes, surely they can donate this surplus building. It is not without precedent for a library to use shuttered municipal assets. In 2004, Edwardsburgh-Cardinal moved their library in Cardinal to the former municipal building when land for the old library was needed for a public works project. There is no good reason this cannot be done. It only requires the will of township council and the library board to do so. It also requires the public to apply pressure to make it expedient for them to listen to their constituents and users.

Consolidating services can make sense in many areas of government involvement, but closing library branches that are used by the community is not something that makes sense. Closing library branches does not improve service, it reduces service and there is no positive spin that can be put on that.


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