County library groundbreaking – but construction started

With the weather as chancy as a roll of the dice these days, coun­ty council was taking no chances about construction de­lays when it held the ground­breaking for two new libraries on March 14.
Councillors, staff, and visitors met at 2pm in Arthur for the official groundbreaking, but a huge backhoe was already tearing a huge shovel into the lot in preparation for the new library.
Construction was even more pronounced in Drayton, where the ground was open and the concrete forms were in place.
In Arthur at 2pm, County Warden John Green called the day “historic” and said the county is pleased for “the opportunity to celebrate culture and health and welfare” in a single groundbreaking cere­mony. Arthur’s library will also house a medical centre.
And Green said of Arthur and Drayton’s facilities, “We hope to have both of these open this fall.”
Library board committee chairman Brad Whitcombe noted that the recently de­ceased Sir Edmond Hillary “had it easy because he only had to climb Mount Everest. He didn’t have to expand and improve the county library system.”
Whitcombe said with the two new libraries, the county is nearly half way through “quite a journey.”
He remembered being in Erin’s Centre 2000 in that year and, “I thought we really need to look at our entire system rising to that standard.”
He said the next goal is to improve the Carnegie libraries that are in Wellington County, which were paid for at the turn of the last century by U.S. mag­nate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
“This is a really happy moment for me,” Whitcombe said, adding, “I look forward to the ribbon cutting in the fall.”
Wellington North Mayor Mike Broomhead said, “What a thrill for the community. See­ing is believing.”
He said there has been great co-operation from everyone involved, and the Family Health Team is going to be taking space in the medical section of the building.
The Arthur library and medical facility is on 110 Charles Street. The two storey structure will have a 4,000 square foot medical centre on the top floor with a local doctor and Family Medical Team. The 4,000 square foot library branch will be on the main floor and will include a separate program room for library events, several windows providing natural sunlight, and a gas fireplace offering a comfortable reading environ­ment. A full basement will feature a multi-media board­room available for public rental and for the Family Medical Team to administer medical programs.
Broomhead said of the library, “Brad had a vision of what he wanted to see. He’s taken criticism – but he got the support of county council, and also of Wellington North.
MP Gary Schellenberger was on hand and noted he has now worked for four years with the people of Wellington Coun­ty. He said, “Wellington Coun­ty works well together … It’s all done as a family.”
Schellenberger is the chair­man of the Canadian Heritage committee, and noted that one of the first jobs that committee had when he arrived there was to merge archives and the na­tional library, and he said that gives him strong feeling for libraries.
MPP Ted Arnott, now a representative of Wellington-Halton Hills, came back to his old home town for the cere­mony, and said the library is “something that is well needed – and will be well used.”
Perth Wellington MPP and Minister of Research and Inno­vation John Wilkinson, said when Canada was first being formed, one of the first things citizens decided on was that books should be available to everyone.
He said at the Drayton groundbreaking that in the 1800s, only the wealthy could afford books, but libraries made them accessible to every­one, rich or poor. He noted that today, not everyone can afford the internet or that technology, but the libraries will make it available to everyone.
“We’ll be glad to come back for the ribbon cutting,” he said.
In Drayton, Whitcombe pre­dicted the library will become “an oasis of culture.”
Whitcombe said that some county councillors had asked how it was that the Drayton library project was placed in the county five year plan, and explained that was the re­spon­sibility of Ward 2 (Mapleton) county councillor Carl Hall, who told the committee resi­dents were lined up outside the door for services.
Green agreed that Hall pushed the project started, but he not­ed, too, committee mem­ber Rod Finnie had been adamant over the years that once the Drayton project was on the books, it should be completed.
Schellenberger said in Dray­­ton that sustainable fund­ing allows councils to work with five years plans, although they sometimes take a little long­er to complete some things.
Green said county council would receive any and all chequ­es, for any amount, at the reception planned after the groundbreaking ceremony.
Wilkinson said he had learn­ed that Wellington County had the goal of having the finest library system in Ontario, a fact borne out by its having the largest usage in the pro­vince.
Wilkinson said that Listowel and St. Mary’s each have a newly-restored Carnegie libra­ry, and work had just started on Mitchell’s Carnegie library re­furbishment, and Wellington County officials might want to consider what Perth County is doing with those buildings. He also noted there was some pro­vincial money for those projects.
Green had plenty of op­portunity to lobby for provin­cial funds that day. He was acting as Wilkinson’s chauffeur for the openings.
Green also introduced Lew­is White, son of Guelph-Eramosa Mayor Chris White. Green said that he had met Lewis at the Good Roads convention in Toronto, and wanted him on hand because it is for Lewis’s generation that the libraries in Wellington and being built.
“These new buildings are going to be fantastic. Staff look forward to working in these modern learning facilities,” said Chief Librarian Janice Hindley.
Both buildings will be wheel chair accessible, house public library computer termi­nals, equipped with wireless
Internet access and are scheduled to open in mid-Octo­ber to coincide with Ontario Public Library Week.