Merge, close small Lambton libraries suggests consultant

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The Shetland Library in Dawn-Euphemia is one of the branches a consultant says is too small and not accessible to everyone

Petrolia’s library is “an example of what other libraries can aspire to be.”

That from Anand Desai of Monteith Brown Planning Consultants who was assigned the task of looking at the needs of Lambton County’s libraries.

Desai recently told Lambton County councillors there is about 87,817 square feet of library space in Lambton, a little less than one square foot for every resident. About half of the county residents went to a library in 2019. There are 17,000 active cardholders who borrowed 330,000 books, movies, music and materials.

The consultant adds about 9,000 square feet of library space will be needed in the coming years to keep pace with growth in the region.

Desai says many of Lambton’s libraries are located in buildings which were not first libraries and are undersized. He pointed to the Shetland Library as an example. And, Desai says, many libraries don’t meet current accessibility standards and can’t provide a full range of services because they’re undersized.

The report suggests some small changes to libraries in Alvinston, Arkona, Port Franks, Thedford and Forest. Desai believes the Camlachie branch, will need to be expanded. Wyoming should “modernize” and increase visibility into the library. Corunna’s library needs accessibility improvements and the consultant says the county should talk to Watford to “prepare a reinvestment plan to enhance the building’s condition.”

The report also calls for the Sombra and Port Lambton libraries to be combined with an “express service point” being developed for Port Lambton. The Mooretown and Courtright libraries, it says should also be combined. Desai says the smallest branches, Shetland and Wilkesport, are undersized, outdated and unable to offer a modern experience. He says “express library service points” should be considered.

The consultant also suggested the county work with the local school boards to improve library services making sure plans don’t overlap.

The report made no mention of the Petrolia Library. When asked by Mayor Brad Loosley why it wasn’t, Desai said, Petrolia was a beautiful library which offers “meaningful community engagement.

“It is an example of what others can aspire to be,” he told Loosley.