By Chad Ingram
Published Jan. 25 2018
Algonquin Highlands council wants to see a transition plan before it agrees to what amounts to a closure of the Dorset branch of the Haliburton County Public Library.
Of the library’s eight branches the ones in Dorset and Cardiff have the lowest circulation numbers and there are some concerns about their sustainability.
Algonquin Highlands parks recreation and trails manager Chris Card has discussed with library CEO Bessie Sullivan about turning the branch into a book drop location where library books could be returned and where ordered books could be picked up.
Books that are placed on hold are delivered to branches by library staff on a weekly basis. Turning the Dorset branch into a book drop location would mean the work of collecting the books could be done by Algonquin Highlands staff who would liaise with library staff responsible for the pick up and drop off.
“Based on the info I was given we’d be able to do that with our staff without any burden” Card told councillors during a Jan. 18 meeting.
Circulation at the Dorset branch is low. 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.
A report from Card suggested that the space inside the Dorset Recreation Centre where the library is housed could be reconfigured to include additional space for public access computers – currently there are three but Card said that 10 could likely fit – as well as additional office space for township staff.
His report indicated that most programming at the library would be able to continue with the exception of a children’s summer reading program hosted by library staff and funded by TD Bank. Continuing that program would require a change in strategy Card’s report indicated.
Mayor Carol Moffatt reiterated a number of times that she did not see the change as the closure of a library branch but rather a transition to a new type of community hub.
“Libraries are so much more than traditional book services” Moffatt said. “I see it as transitioning a library to changing needs.”
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen acknowledged the situation was a difficult one.
“It’s tough for the library board; it’s tough for us” said Danielsen who sits on the library board. Danielsen said she thought it was important that programming including the children’s summer reading program continue at the site.
While Danielsen and Councillor Lisa Barry seemed prepared to proceed with the change councillors Marlene Kyle and Brian Lynch were hesitant.
“I’m really struggling giving the library up” Kyle said indicating the majority of people who came to the site were still coming there to take out books. She noted that residents in the northern portion of Algonquin Highlands would continue to pay taxes to the upper tier of Haliburton County.
“They’re paying the county for a service they don’t get” Kyle said.
“Libraries are infrastructure” said Councillor Brian Lynch noting that Dorset had already lost the public school it once had and that one of its churches now operates in a seasonal capacity.
He said that socially isolated residents some of whom are seniors who do not use the internet go to the library for purposes of socializing as much as taking out books.
“And your wife works for the library” said Moffatt.
Lynch’s wife is an employee at the Dorset library branch.
Council ultimately agreed they would like more information and a transition plan on what would occur within the current library space before making a decision.