Funding next step for library expansion project
The Castlegar & District Public Library is moving forward with plans to renovate the lower level of their downtown facility.
New library director Kimberly Partanen and library board chair Katrina Vermette updated city council last week on the status of the project.
The renovation project has been part of the library’s three-year strategic plan since 2016. The project materialized after extensive consultations and surveys with library user groups about what they would like to see happen at the facility. The project addresses many of the shortcomings identified in those surveys.
The library is fortunate that there is room for growth and expansion within the existing building.
“We are in the unique position to create a more usable public space in an existing facility for a fraction of the time and cost of a new build,” said Vermette.
It is also in an ideal location as many residents can access the building by walking or by public transit.
“The library basement renovation is about creating a more usable, accessible space for all ages in our community,” explained Vermette.
A big portion of the renovation is focused on making the lower level more accessible. The current wheelchair lift will not accommodate heavy motorized chairs or scooters. Navigating the stairs is also difficult for parents with young children in strollers and the visually impaired.
Private study space and seating to access Wi-Fi will also be improved. The presentation pointed out that there is a lack of quiet spaces for study or group projects. This will benefit traditional students as well as distance education and homeschool students.
“Our library should be a safe and welcoming venue for study, conversation and learning,” said Vermette.
New technology spaces will also be developed. Computers will now be placed in more of a computer lab-style set-up, increasing safety and enhancing the ability to provide computer training opportunities.
Vermette also explained that according to recent BC Public Library Statistics, “Comparing Castlegar to other libraries serving populations between 10,000 and 18,000, we are in the bottom three — offering just 35 seats for people wishing to study, read in the library, or access our Wi-Fi.”
A new dedicated meeting room will address the issue of the current meeting room being part of the path for foot traffic to reach other programming spaces. It will also address the existing problem of too much noise from the meeting room entering the upstairs library.
“We feel that a dedicated private meeting room with teleconferencing capabilities, combined with a planned kitchenette, would increase our capability to offer affordable space for local groups, and generate some additional revenue for the library,” said Partanen.
The addition of a kitchen will also increase meeting opportunities and community programming opportunities.
The project was estimated at $575,000 in 2015. Funding ($75,000) for an archival project that is part of the plan has already been secured bringing the amount needed down to $500,000.
The library can apply for funding from Columbia Basin Trust once they receive letters of commitment from their local government funders — the City of Castlegar and RDCK Areas I and J.
The library plans to fundraise about $45,000 themselves.
They hope to begin construction of the project in 2018. The construction phase should take about three months and the goal is to ensure that it will not disrupt the summer reading program.