February 10, 2016

County wants ideas for new Hillsburgh Library

As published in The Erin Advocate

Libraries have done a good job of moving beyond books in the services they offer, but with a new library complex opening in Hillsburgh next year, there is an opportunity to do even better.

Wellington County staff and +VG Architects are seeking input on what features people would like to see. Pick up a comment card at existing local branches or the Town office, send an email to HillsburghLibrarycomments@wellington.ca or visit the library section of the county website.

Libraries are all about sharing, learning, community engagement and culture. So what can we share in that physical space that is not readily available on the internet?

How about the work of local artists? Of course, the library foyer should be filled with a series of art exhibits. But what if you could borrow a piece of art for free, with the option to buy it?

How about face-to-face conversation? An enclosed veranda overlooking the pond, with a café and comfortable seating, would be an attractive social meeting space.

How about seeds? A seed library would allow patrons to take home a variety of seeds for their gardens and flowerpots, and later in the season, contribute seeds from their plants back to the community stock.

How about tools, and toys, and musical instruments? A co-op for sharing these would require some initial investment, and perhaps a membership fee, but it could start small and be built up with fundraising and item donations.

How about garden plots? We’re long overdue for a community garden, which would allow apartment dwellers or owners of small properties to work a borrowed patch of fertile soil. It could be a secure, supervised facility, one of many outdoor features on the spacious site.

How about a trails welcome centre? This is a unique, beautiful public space. We need to promote it and take advantage of the opportunity for nature education. The library could be a hub for use of an around-the-pond trail, the Elora Cataract Trailway (owned by Credit Valley Conservation) and the nearby Nestlé parklands.

How about a stage overlooking the grounds, for outdoor concerts? How about canoe and bicycle rentals? How about permanent chess board tables on a patio? Once the ideas start flowing, there’s no telling what could be considered.

The Library has made a good effort to use new technologies, with services such as its e-book system and 3D printers. It should remain vigilant for opportunities to add on to what people can already do at home.

Within the structure, dedicated spaces are needed for functions such as children’s programming, workstations that can be reserved by business people and older students, and perhaps a magazine lounge. There should be a small meeting room, and a larger room for lectures, small-scale performances or travelling exhibits.

Perhaps the treasures of the Museum and Archives could be displayed more throughout the county. How about a local history corner, instead of just a couple of shelves?

When I was a kid, our school did not have a proper library, but the public library arrived in the school parking lot once a week in the form of a Bookmobile. It was a converted bus filled with bookshelves.

Now that schools do have adequate libraries, county staff should think about what unique services they might be able to deliver to the public outside the library buildings, either at schools, special events or other community facilities.

And then of course there’s the book collection. DVDs may be following videotapes into oblivion, but books are not going away. So we’ll need a good selection of those too.

Warden George Bridge says the Hillsburgh Library will be “a showpiece of our library system, and indeed the envy of library systems throughout the Province.” The building needs to be attractive, complimenting the 1892 house that will be part of it, but its form must be driven primarily by the needs of its users.