/Dorset library space ‘an open book’

Dorset library space ‘an open book’

By Sue Tiffin

Published Dec. 24, 2018 

Dorset library branch, within the Dorset Recreation Centre is moving closer to becoming a multi-use space.
space is currently open eight hours a week through the Haliburton
County Public Library but has been facing low circulation figures.
Algonquin Highlands councillors have been considering possible future
development to make the space more frequented than it is now by adding
more computers and providing a book-drop service, where residents could
order and pick up books through the library system, which would mean
removing the books that are currently there to peruse. 
space could be open 40 hours a week being used as a multi-use room if
the books were not there, as they require a fully-trained librarian to
manage their circulation. Currently, according to Chris Card, parks,
recreation and trails manager, the numbers show that the computers
available in the space are frequently used.
in September 2017 when the subject was broached for the second time in
the past decade, the township again faced public opposition to
dismantling the library’s book services. In July and August this year,
the township released a survey to gather public input about whether to
keep the space as it is or change it.
isn’t about saying, get rid of the books and put four computers in
there,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt at a Dec. 13 council meeting. “It’s
what do we, as a group of decision makers, [through] consultation, see
as the best use of space to try to give something to everybody.”
survey was made up of 11 questions, available via SurveyMonkey online
through the months of July and August and received 154 responses though
some respondents skipped questions. Just over 77 per cent of the
respondents said they lived or cottaged in Algonquin Highlands, while
almost 20 per cent said they were from Lake of Bays. Just over 50 per
cent of respondents, or 71 people – said they use the library for books.
A little over 76 per cent of respondents said they supported the idea
of book drop services – ordering books online through the HCPL system
and picking them up at the DRC from township staff trained by the
library. Almost 70 per cent of respondents said they supported a
“reimagining” of the space.
Almost 59
per cent of respondents, 79 people, said they supported the space being
transitioned into a township-managed community space, and about 40 per
cent of respondents, or 53 people, said they supported the Dorset
library as is, under the library board’s governance.
was left for respondents to make suggestions about what to do with the
space, with most answers requesting that the space stay the same or
include books rather than a book ordering system.
in explaining some of the background of the library’s history, said the
Dorset library branch, like the one in Cardiff, also in Haliburton
County, has been poorly performing for quite some time. 
Dorset and Cardiff libraries have been living on a whisper and a prayer
for years,” she said. “This is not the first time that the library
board has raised the issue of poor attendance.” Moffatt said it has been
asked if the library could offer more librarian hours, but the answer
is no.
“We have thousands of people
using other locations and there just isn’t the money and people,” she
said. “And so Cardiff and Dorset have been for years just falling off
the edge of the world.”
Moffatt said she
was non-committal to either outcome, the room staying as it was or
becoming a multi-use space, but said, “I do believe personally that it
should be a space that’s open more for more people for more reasons.” 
encouraged councillors to speak to the issue, based on what they had
heard from residents in the community and the results of the survey, to
decide how to move forward.
“It’s empty
so much, when it is open,” said Councillor Julia Shortreed, who uses the
recreation centre and noted low attendance of the library room. “It’s
only eight hours a week, the way technology’s going in our world and
everything … turning it into a multi-use facility is much better for
the community than what it is now, definitely.”
see it as an enhancement,” said Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen, who sits on
the Haliburton County Public Library board. “I know it’s a difficult
thing, and I will say it again, I feel a bit bad about saying this but I
think the library board has to some extent put their heads in the sand
and have had them there for some time. They don’t want to be responsible
for making this decision. We’ve tried everything we can to encourage
joint decisions, joint presentations, we asked them to participate in
the survey, they didn’t want to participate in the survey, and I think
the [former] chair was quite clear in saying … that she just wanted it
go to away and not be dealt with while she was chair. It’s a tough
Later in discussion, both she
and Moffatt acknowledged that the HCPL is award-winning, with Danielsen
saying, “[the library is] extraordinary in their advocacy, in the work
that they do, in the programs they offer, in the partnerships they have
developed and the fundraising they do … they work hard.”
told new councillors that council has asked if volunteers could run the
library, but that the answer was there needs to be a qualified
librarian in place for reasons that include organization and
confidentiality of users. She suggested a “take one, leave one,” book
rack, and said that might solve the issue that residents raised about
wanting physical children’s books in place.
in mind children’s books are still going to be available,” she added.
“All the things that the libraries have within their system are
available to everybody, you just have to order it, ask, and it will be
delivered. That’s not the same as having a little children’s nook so to
speak, but there’s no reason why we can’t incorporate something like
that into a corner.”
Concerns have also
been raised about the need for a seniors space, and that the library
serves a population who might not have transportation to get to the next
closest libraries, located in Baysville and Dwight.
think we need to remember too that this is not a black and white
decision,” said Moffatt. “It is in terms of leaving it as is or
transitioning to something else. But the something else … could be
fluid, and it would be our responsibility as decision makers in
consultation with the community, to keep poking at those things.”
Moffatt said a new space open longer might help create a community
gathering space. 
“…If we created a
space that was pleasant enough, that the concerns about seniors having
no place to go could be in some way alleviated, if they [the recreation
centre] are this place where there’s always coffee on, and maybe a fire
going,” she said. “Now it becomes a community space where there might
always be someone to talk to and alleviate some of those concerns about
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux
said she spoke personally but also for residents of Ward 3 who she had
talked to during the recent election campaign.
declare my bias upfront,” she said. “I’m a huge proponent of public
libraries and I believe, as do many others who frequent them as often as
I do, that as soon as we lose a library it’s never coming back. It’s a
forever thing. There’s no turning back that decision. Once a library has
left a community it’s gone for good.”
said that not being able to distinguish if survey respondents were
permanent residents who only have close access to the Dorset library
branch, or seasonal residents who access libraries more frequently
elsewhere, made the results difficult to interpret. 
fear is, what if there is a part of our community who really would
support having more hours, having a better service, and they’re squished
in with all of those other responses and we’re not hearing their
voices,” said Dailloux.
“If the local
people can still go there,” said Danielsen, “Go in this re-purposed
room, use the computers that are there, browse any book they want, can
order any book that the library system in Ontario has, have it delivered
to the Dorset facility … they’re not missing anything, they’re
gaining use of the facility for 32 more hours at least of the week.”
Lisa Barry asked if programming that includes literacy programs for
children and technology teaching for adults could still be available
through the HCPL. Danielsen said yes, that would be available. Moffatt
suggested that a committee, though not affiliated directly with the
library, could be initiated to help create further programming and
nurture programming already in place. 
Shortreed asked, if nothing was done, the already-few hours the library is in operation might be reduced anyway.  
whole issue started, I don’t know, 10 years ago, where there was
discussion of closing the doors of the library,” said Danielsen. “Local
people had warning that something was going to happen and they were up
in arms about it but nobody did anything about it to use it more.” She
added she couldn’t see hours reduced further.  
heartened by some of the suggestions I’ve been hearing, about how we
keep the spirit of books alive,” said Dailloux, suggesting that
developing partnerships with other close libraries, encouraging their
use and continued use of electronic books and book ordering is
essential. “If we, around this table, can keep the spirit of books alive
and the spirit of book sharing alive, then I would personally feel much
more comfortable endorsing the plans that are at this table in
releasing that space that is taxpayer space and not used very much for
other things that more of our taxpayers can use and might encourage
community [engagement].”
Moffatt said
she saw it as a tremendous opportunity to breathe more life into the
space, by adding more programming that residents want and continuing to
offer books through the ordering system.
“It’s up to us to figure out what that looks like,” she said.
Councillors all agreed to support transitioning the room into a multi-use space.
big decision is to move forward,” said Moffatt, adding that they would
look to information from the parks and recreation department about
programming that could be offered and what the new space could look
like. “And just keep it, dare I say, an open book.”
Moffatt will sit as the representative for Algonquin Highlands on the HCPL board for this term.
results of the survey can be accessed via the Dec. 13 agenda for the
Algonquin Highlands regular meeting of council as  listed on Haliburton
Civic Web (haliburtoncivicweb.net).
Dorset library branch, located in the Dorset Recreation Centre at 1051
Main Street, is open on Tuesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.,
and on Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. According to 2017 numbers, Dorset
and Cardiff library branches have the smallest circulation numbers,
with Dorset circulating 1,360 items and Cardiff circulating 961 items in
2017, up to August.