Library re-opens 100 years after it was first donated to community

It was 100 years to the month that the library here was re-opened after major renovations, and several people, including library board chairman and emcee Jamie Couper mentioned they hope to get another century of use out of the main street building.

Couper noted that it was several years ago the library board and county council began a study of the building, and heard strongly that residents not only wanted to keep it open, but keep it on the main street.

The library was donated in 1908 by U.S. industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in history, who managed to rise from poverty to riches by educating himself at a library. He spent the last part of his life donating thousands of libraries across North America and Europe. There are six still standing in Wellington County.

The Elora library was built in 1909 by Elora architect W.F. Shepperd after the village re­ceived a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. The $6,500 from those days went a long way.

The current project cost about $1.2-million, and the county received a $50,000 grant from the government of Canada’s Enabling Accessi­bility Fund, Human Resources and Skills Development Can­ada, to help finance an acces­sible elevator for the building.

MPP Ted Arnott noted that the library has played a key role in literacy and in the community.

Warden Joanne Ross-Zuj, born in Elora, told a gathering of about 200 people that when they enter the renovated building, “You are going to be so impressed.

She added, to much laughter, “All the initials that you carved into the wood are gone.”

She said that with the renovations come new pro­grams and more services. “You are going to be rushing to get in here,” she predicted.

Kathy Baranski, of Heritage Centre Wellington, thanked county council for keeping the building in its current location. She also noted that Carnegie donated 111 libraries across Ontario, and said 79 of them are still in use.

Architect Lloyd Grinham said he has worked across the street for 15 years and he finally managed to get a job from the county.

The classic Carnegie library was renovated to restore its heritage charm and to make it completely accessible, and the renovations were done using the county’s Green Legacy Green Building Standards. This structure meets the Emerald level of certification, which is the county’s highest building standard.

Sheryl Ignace was very pleased about that. She is a mother of three who became disabled, and she was the first person to enter the building using the new elevator, riding up with Ross-Zuj.

Ignace, a member of the county accessibility committee is thrilled with the accessibility standards.

She said in an interview, “It’s amazing. I’ve always used Aboyne and Fergus [library branches] because I knew I couldn’t get inside Elora. The aisles are nice and big. The elevator is so big. It’s not like you’re squished.”

The library will offer wire­less inter­net access, a new lib­rary programming room, child­ren’s area, young adult corner, cozy fireplace and a lounge area. Those new features blend with the original hardwood floors, trim, oak tables, and chairs.

New interior lighting fix­tur­es reflect the heritage of the build­ing. A new accessible entrance on Henderson allows access to both floors via an elevator.

Ross-Zuj said, “The Elora Library is a welcoming and user-friendly environment, pro­viding patrons with modern equipment by which to access knowledge. A library is a quiet place where residents can retreat from their busy lives and get lost in a good book or surf the web.”

Couper said, “The newly renovated Elora library branch caters to patrons of all ages. There is something for every­one.

From those who pop in to pick up a new book, to those who spend hours utilizing all that this fantastic library has to offer.”

Chief Librarian Janice Hindley said, “I commend Wellington County council for their vision and support on this project.

“I am confident that residents in Centre Wellington will continue to enjoy the Elora library branch as they read, research and relax in this community gathering place.”