Some mayors want library buildings to stay in municipal hands

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Brooke-Alvinston wants to keep control over their libraries.

That from Mayor Don McGugan after reading a report prepared for Lambton County Councilors.

In February, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley asked county staff to take a look at the way the county’s libraries are organized. Currently, Lambton County provides the services and staffs the branches. The locations are largely owned and maintained by the host municipality.

But Robert Tremain, general manager of cultural services in a report to councillors, says that is not always efficient and can cause frustration. “Building maintenance standards vary across the system and as practices vary among area municipalities, requisitioning even basic repairs can be extremely difficult and time consuming,” he writes.

Tremain says municipalities could fully take over the service, however it would be difficult and costly to replicate the services provided now on a countywide basis. “Economies of scale would be reduced or eliminated, resulting in higher overall costs to area municipalities operating library branches” he says.

But Tremain says having the county take over the entire operation, including the buildings would be more efficient because it would “opens the door to ‘economies of scale’ where the county could potentially reduce building maintenance and operating costs via centralized, bulk and coordinated purchasing.”

McGugan, and several other Central Lambton mayors, balked at the idea. “There were words in there that I interpreted as an option that they would maybe take the buildings over…That’s going to be a problem in Brooke-Alvinston.”

McGugan says the municipality takes great pride in its libraries and has donated thousands of dollars over the years to build and expand both the Alvinston and the Inwood branches. “An awful lot of volunteer work gone into the library in Alvinston. If someone to come along and take over the library in Alvinston that will be a challenge,” he says.

Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper agrees. “I understand there could be some tuning up to do,” he says “ but I’m not in favour of them taking over.”

Napper says in particular, the municipality has recently put a lot of money and effort into creating the Camlachie Library and Museum and he wouldn’t want to see that just handed over.

He’s also concerned it could lead to a reduction of service. “If they (Lambton County) took over they’re only mandated to have one library in each municipality and we have three.”

County staff will talk to each municipality about the potential costs of Lambton taking over the buildings and visit each municipality to discuss what the possibilities are.

Lambton County Councillors will consider Tremain’s final report on the issue no later than mid-August.