I am writing with regard to the situation surrounding the Williamsburg Branch of the SDG Library. The most troubling aspect of the apparent closure of this valuable and important community institution is the deafening silence coming from our local government representatives and the officials on the Library Board.
The Williamsburg Library is one of the most utilized and active branches in the SDG Library system. Drawing on the surrounding township, it serves a varied and expansive base encompassing all elements of our society – young and old, male and female, working and retired. It has computers for those who cannot afford their own. It provides inspiring programs for our youngest residents to encourage their thirst for knowledge and challenge their burgeoning potential and it offers a welcoming and helpful presence to all seeking knowledge and information. Sadly, in the eyes and consensus of the Library Board, none of that seems to matter.
Karen Franklin, Manager of Library Services, stated in a newspaper article that:
“The decision to consolidate the two branches was not made lightly, and after careful consideration the board decided it would be in the best interests of the residents of South Dundas.”
What residents? Certainly not the residents of Williamsburg. Williamsburg residents are part of South Dundas – contributing, tax-paying members of South Dundas. They realize that a local library is an important part of their hometown.
The residents of Williamsburg /South Dundas were never consulted or advised of this decision that was “in our best interests” and neither Mr. McGimpsey, Library Board Chair, nor Ms. Franklin are willing to provide any definitive insight into the Board’s reasoning behind this closure.
When the initial uncertainty about the longevity of our local library branch became known, petitions to keep the libray were signed, a Save the Williamsburg Library facebook page was created and many Williamsburg Library patrons have reached out for answers and clarification. I find it both frustrating and shocking that the individuals that I and other concerned community members have contacted have been denied the courtesy of a simple acknowledgement.
The South Dundas Council have been silent and missing in action throughout this debate. By contrast, there was no such timidity when the same elected officials were seeking our votes in the last municipal election.
There was a time when local politicians stood as one with the residents and their constituents in voicing their support – regardless of whether they held a position on the actual board or not. They spoke up for their community and the children and families living within. Concern for local children and their access to literacy and books were important elements of a happy, successful and thriving town and region.
When a tough decision was made it was respected because there was discussion, debate and a fair hearing of all aspects of the matter under consideration.
Avoidance, mumbled platitudes and general indifference for something that impacts many across our township is not something that reflects positively on the Council or the Library Board.
Update: Another Letter about the Williamsburg Library Closure
Did you read that the “Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry County Library Board is pleased to announce that the Library will have a new Library branch in Morrisburg” (press release dated December 21, 2012). That sounds nice…until you read further down. “The new library branch in Morrisburg will consolidate two library branches; the old Morrisburg branch, currently under the Morrisburg Arena, and Williamsburg branch, currently in the Township of South Dundas building in Williamsburg” (same press release). Translation: Morrisburg branch will be moved to a new facility, and Williamsburg branch will be CLOSED.That sounds like a nice upgrade for residents of Morrisburg. How do library patrons in Williamsburg feel about it? We are displeased.
They’re not pretending this is a draft proposal awaiting input. There has been no discussion within the community before this announcement. It doesn’t seem to matter that Williamsburg has an awful lot of books signed out each week. (You can check these statistics online at http://www.sdglibrary.ca/index.cfm?Title=BandMStatistics ) Keep in mind that a lot of the bigger branches are open longer hours than Williamsburg, which is open only 15 hours per week. Yet it consistently has a high rate of books and other materials signed out in that short time.
This same press release claims that “this new branch will improve Library services for the residents of South Dundas by providing an up-to-date, welcoming and accessible Library space and increased open hours”. I’m glad to hear that the new space in Morrisburg will be up-to-date, accessible, etc. But how can closing a library in one community improve its library services for that community? It can’t.
Brinston’s library branch was closed several years back. Some patrons from that community now use the Williamsburg library. Who’s next? Morewood? South Mountain? Avonmore? I encourage you all to consider supporting the fight to keep our branch open.
The Williamsburg branch of the SD&G library system is the only place in Williamsburg where the public can send a fax, use public wireless internet, and use a public internet computer if you don’t have a computer of your own. Why, you can even sign out books there! I am going to post a letter/petition for the Williamsburg community to read and sign, if they wish, to indicate they would like our branch to remain open. The library supervisor I spoke with said that petitions are not permitted in the library, so it will be outside the Williamsburg library, on the bulletin board next to the Township Office door. There is a separate petition beside it for kids to sign if it’s okay with their parents. If we bond together, maybe they will listen.
Do you agree or disagree with the planned library closure? Please leave a comment or write your own letter to the editor!
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