News Local

Spot for new library officially booked

By Raymond Bowe, Barrie Examiner

Book it.

The groundbreaking for the new south-end Barrie Public Library took place Tuesday morning.

The $4.5-million facility will be a single-storey branch located within the city's so-called Painswick Town Centre Block near Big Bay Point Road and Yonge Street. More specifically, it will be located behind Zehrs at Dean Avenue and Raquel Street.

At approximately 15,000 square feet, the satellite branch will be just under half the size of the main downtown library, which opened Dec. 4, 1996.

Construction should be complete by next spring, but officials say it will also take time to finish the inside and stock the shelves.

About eight years ago, the library board identified the need for a south-end library to accommodate explosive growth in that area of the city, particularly young families.

The community said it wanted a multi-branch approach, said Al Davis, director at the Barrie Public Library.

"When we look at the population growth in that part of the city, and what its potential is for (more) growth, we said that's where it's got to be," said Davis, adding it's nice to see all the planning finally come together.

The south-end library will occupy more than half of the four-acre property and be geared towards the area's young population, with space for about 130,000 books and other material. There will be special areas for adults, teens and children, as well as computers and quiet study areas, and a multi-purpose community room will also accommodate more than 100 people.

"There will be a little more emphasis on kids going to school and having study space, because with these preschoolers, it won't be long before they'll be in school," Davis said.

In speaking to teachers, Davis hears a "distressing" theme.

"When the kids start school, they always do a tour of the library downtown," he said.

"I'm hearing from a lot of resource teachers that that is the first time, for a lot of kids, that they get to a public library."

That means they're also missing out on various literacy programs.

"Kids that miss (programs) don't do as well in school, they simply don't," Davis said. "When I look at it, I realize that anybody in that situation and are not likely to get to the downtown library on a regular basis, they're going to pay for it in school.

"So, we're pretty excited to do something in that end of town," he added.

But there's also a large senior and commuter population in the south end, so that will be incorp o rat e d, too, Davis added, including download able books.

Catherine Virgo, who has chaired the public library board for more than seven years, said she's especially proud of the local fundraising efforts.

The $1-million campaign has raised about $900,000. She's glad that money is going into a worthy project.

The satellite library project did not receive any provincial or federal grants, so the onus was put on residents to step up, whether the donations are big or small.

"It is really a community effort -- that's the best part of it," Virgo said. "It also makes people feel like it really is their library. There's such a demand on donors to give, because there are so many great causes."

South-end residents feel "disenfranchised" not having their own library, Davis said.

"There is more than a psychological barrier to getting it," he said.

"That area has one of the highest preschool-aged children- type families. In the evening -- because it's a commute for a lot of them where they work -- it's about feeding kids, getting them to whatever other events they have to be at, getting them to bed. So, getting in the car and making another drive downtown in the evening to this library (on Worsley Street) is not (possible).

"We get them on weekends, but we've found a much smaller percentage of people living in the south end are getting to this library when compared to the rest of Barrie," Davis added. "They obviously really need it."

"Barrie has a dichotomy population, with a vibrant, mature population ... as well as young families with babies and only one car, so it's disappointing that they can't get into our other young programs because they're over-subscribed," Virgo said.

Long-term, a larger library network could be in the works.

"Council has asked us to include library services for the whole of Barrie, which could include some more branches, another branch, another two branches, whatever," Davis said.

Virgo said many new Barrie residents are surprised to learn that the city has only one main facility, the largest per capita municipality in that situation, she said.

"People who move here are just aghast," Virgo said, adding the future could include satellite branches in Holly and the recently annexed land from Innisfil.

"What we would be looking at is whether we can do it, whether it's feasible, etc., but our first choice would be to have the library as part of the Holly Community Centre (near Mapleview Drive and Essa Road)," Davis said.

Libraries located within community centres are "very successful," he added.

The Painswick area is also slated to get a new recreation centre, with a double ice pad, which could open in 2014.

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