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Herald Opinions April 20, 2017

A town with a plan

Even in the digital age, there are not many places closer to the heart of a community than the local library.

Halifax’s magnificent new library has drawn a steady stream of traffic that shows no sign of waning. In the province’s capital or in its smallest town, libraries provide an unequalled source of nourishment for mind and soul.

So in historic and picturesque Annapolis Royal, a hardworking and enthusiastic local group is rolling up sleeves to raise funds to move the library to a larger space to accommodate some 2,000 regular users, almost four times the population of the western Annapolis County town. As The Chronicle Herald’s Heather Desveaux reports, those visitors borrowed 40,000 books and items in 2016.

Linda Moffatt, who leads the Association of Friends of the Annapolis Royal Library, says no one expected the tiny town to foot the entire bill for expansion. So her group has spent a decade raising almost $140,000 to give the library a new home in the west wing of the Academy building at 590 George St., formerly Annapolis Royal Regional Academy. The library is now located in the town hall.

Ms. Moffatt said residents have been generous in aiding the cause. But more needs to be done, which is where Saturday, April 22, comes in. Annapolis Royal Library Day at the Academy will focus on boosting fundraising efforts.

Patrons will get a chance to check out the proposed new library space, as well as a variety of events, including a readathon, book sale, author readings and a bake sale.

The Help Grow Our Library campaign is aiming to bring in $225,000 to renovate, furnish and equip the new library.

Ms. Moffatt rightly observes libraries are “the front-line institution in most communities, because the services — books, Internet, programming — are free.” They give every one of us a lifetime opportunity for continuing education, personal growth and intellectual enrichment. They ensure every family and child have access to books to read together and individually to form a strong foundation of literacy.

Annapolis Valley Regional Library chairwoman Shirley Pineo says people should speak up about the importance of libraries and sustainable funding. Despite financial challenges, she says, Valley libraries are “very vital and active, still growing and expanding.” Bridgetown has finished a library expansion; Hantsport, Kentville and Berwick have new spaces; Port Williams, Wolfville and Kingston are discussing renovations.

“And then you have Annapolis Royal, a small little town who came forward with a plan,” she adds. “It will be such a boost and so exciting to see when it’s finished.”

We couldn’t agree more.
Copyright (c)2017 The Halifax Herald Limited 4/20/2017

Usually when you want to know how to do something, you look it up.

But Friends of the Annapolis Library decided to do something ‘novel’ and asked their patrons for advice.

On Saturday, April 30, the group and Annapolis Valley Regional Library (AVRL) staff held an open house and community workshop called Design your Library to get ideas on a new space they might use.

The public library in Annapolis Royal is thriving. With more than 2,200 regular users, more than four times as many people use it as who live in town, says Linda Moffat, president of the library’s fundraising and awareness group.

“It brings a lot of people into the town,” she said. “It’s a hub of activity for the whole southwest part of the county.”

People use more than just the books, too, and even despite the popularity of e-books, Moffat says book traffic is increasing.

“Readers still like to have books in their hands,” she said.

People come in to access government documents online, research for job opportunities and tourists come in to check their email.

“It really is a core community, frontline service supported by many and which supports many interests,” she said, adding that the town was the first to have a library in the Annapolis Valley.

Which is why their existing space is a challenge, she said. Located at the back of town hall, the library has less than 1,000 sq. ft. of space and needs a bigger facility to be able to meet the needs of holding programs while the library is open.

To that end, the Town of Annapolis Royal and AVRL are exploring whether a larger library might be part of the proposed redevelopment of the classic Annapolis Royal Regional Academy building on St. George Street into a mixed residential and community services complex that is currently being considered.

Moffat says they expect to know more closer to summer whether its development will proceed.

“The building is in excellent condition and the space looks promising,” she said. “We just want to be sure that what we need to do is manageable to fundraise for, as we will be needing to approach the community and government for donations.”

Moffat thinks that the furnishings — book cases and shelving — will be the highest cost. She added the lighting and the flooring is good, but there will need to be some rewiring, a few renovations and the addition of heat pumps. All together, they expect the cost to be around $150,000.

At the design event at the academy, members of the community toured the available space before they started putting their ideas to paper.

They talked about their must haves and a dream list, and AVRL librarian Angela Reynolds was on hand to talk about new technologies for libraries as participants browsed photos of library layouts and catalogues of new library equipment.

“They worked with a large scale model in the ‘design and layout’ area, positioning out tiny scaled cut-outs of bookcases, tables, chairs, computers on the large model, as well as drawing possible layouts on an architectural sketch of the proposed space,” said Moffat.

A big advantage was having the opportunity to discuss their layout options with architect Harry Jost, who was able to assess suggestions with the actual structure in mind to determine what was possible and what wasn’t.

“There were lots of great ideas,” says Moffat. “Even though we can’t yet commit to them until there’s a firm development plan for the academy, it will give us time to incorporate the ideas into our planning and to fundraise.”

Giselle Beauchamp shows Linda Moffat her plans for an ideal library

Giselle Beauchamp shows Linda Moffat her plans for an ideal library

Ken Maher sketches his ideal library floor plan

Ken Maher sketches his ideal library floor plan