THAT NEW BUILDING SMELL Just a few days into its new reincarnation, the Maple Acre library branch is pulling in the patrons. From top, Development Coordinator Melanie Taylor-Ridgeway and Library CEO Kirk Weaver are happy campers as they show visitors around the joint; Ken Robertson’s metal maple branch sculpture, each leaf representing a donation; Bistro-style tables invite pausing for refreshment, both mental and physical; Athen Stirtzinger, 2, gets ready to launch while his brother Keenan, 3, checks out the magnetic table. Mom Mercedes loves the kids’ space.
By NATE SMELLE
BOB LOBLAW PHOTOS
Library services returned to downtown Fenwick with the reopening of the Maple Acre library on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The renovation of the old library and the construction of the new facility began in June 2016. With a budget of $1 million, expectations for the library from the community have been high. Already it is living up to its potential, said Chief Executive Officer of Pelham Public library, Kirk Weaver.
“The staff are very happy with it and the patrons love it,” he said.
“So far the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Enthusiastic about the new space, Weaver said the library now brings an expanded range of opportunities to library users. Some than seven-and-a-half times larger than the size of the original Maple Acre branch, the new space features four computers and wi-fi service throughout the entire building. Even the new lounge chairs contain chargers, he said, so patrons can connect their laptops, cellphones and other electronic devices to the library system. There is also a self-check-out station to make services more convenient for borrowers.
One of the most exciting aspects of the new library for Weaver is the flexibility of the new space.
“Almost all the new furnishings are on wheels, so we can move things around if we need to, or even if we just want to change up how it looks,” he said.
“Many of the bookshelves are on wheels as well, so this allows for all kinds of different activities to take place.”
Adjacent to the accessible entrance near the main parking lot at the rear of the building is a public meeting room that can be rented out to community groups and individuals for public functions after regular hours. The Smart-TV affixed to the wall allows people using the space to connect their devices, expanding the potential usage of the room by facilitating PowerPoint and video presentations. Complimenting the overarching theme of flexibility throughout the new library, the meeting room is connected to the children’s area. A sliding wall divides the two spaces allowing for adult programming to run simultaneously with children’s programs.
“People are inquiring already to book the meeting room and we have only been open a few days,” Weaver said.
“We didn’t have effective space for both adult and children’s programming before, so this is one of the areas we are noticing the improvement. One of the key goals we were trying to accomplish was creating flexible space.”
The children’s area houses a collection of books and other learning tools, including DVDs and educational tools. This fits well with the larger transformation libraries around the world are undergoing, Weaver said.
“It’s a comfortable space, it’s functional and it’s flexible for the changing needs of libraries,” he said.
“They are evolving from a place where you just get books into a creative community space.”
Development Coordinator Melanie Taylor-Ridgway said she and the staff are thrilled by the new branch’s potential to improve the community.
“Well, everyone wants to work here now,” she said with a laugh.
“We are just starting to think of all of the new and unique things we can do with this library. We are at the stage of recognizing its potential. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have so many options that we just didn’t have before.”
Spending more time walking and shopping in downtown Fenwick has opened her eyes to what the village has to offer. Through her role at the library, Taylor-Ridgway is responsible for organizing programs, book clubs and events. Thinking about all the ways the new Maple Acre branch will help the community grow is exciting, she said.
“Libraries are not just about books anymore. We are about information, we are about learning and technology, there are just so many dynamics. People can come in and read, rent movies, they can come in to colour and to study and to meet other people. Libraries are becoming creative spaces for communities.”
The library gives the community much needed social space, said Taylor-Ridgway. For the month of February, staff will be providing free coffee and hot chocolate to visitors to be enjoyed in the café/lounge area at the front entrance. After February, patrons will be able to purchase hot beverages to enjoy at the library. To display some of the local talent, creativity and generosity, the wall is decorated with a metal maple branch donated by Ken Robertson of Ornamental Ironworks in Fenwick. Weaver said the art piece is also a symbol of appreciation, with each leaf representing a donation from the community. In the future, he said they plan to incorporate more art into the library’s décor.
Merging the old with the new, the original Maple Acre library space has been transformed into a quiet study area. This 500- square-foot section of the library provides guests with individual and group study tables and seating that allow them to charge their electronic devices.
Acknowledging concerns expressed by a letter to the editor in last week’s edition of the Voice, Kirk Weaver said it will take time to work out some of the quirks.
“If there are concerns we will make a note of them and follow up with the contractor,” he said.
“We may notice some things that might need to change in our operations and others that should have been done by the contractor. I’m sure that if necessary the Town will work with the contractor to fulfill their obligations.”
Helping to preserve the heritage of the library, the original stained-glass windows add an abundance of natural light to the study area. One of the original bookcases was also refinished and donated to the library by the Robertson family. The Pelham Historical Society also plans to fill a display case with artifacts highlighting local history.
The library has made space for the Historical Society to keep records, artifacts and books that were previously in storage at the Fonthill branch. Weaver said this section is accessible for the most part to the public for reference during operating hours, however some of the artifacts and documents can only be accessed upon appointment. Community members wishing to view the entire collection are advised to make an appointment with Mary Lamb of the Pelham Historical Society, he said.
By last Friday, FenwicK resident Pauline Cooper had already visited the new branch three times. She believes the additional space and new design has enhanced the experience for patrons. On Friday afternoon, Cooper brought her three grandchildren with her to check out the new space.
“The library has improved 100 percent,” she said.
“Just look around and you can see how much better it is. The new hours are great.”
“It’s a lot easier to find things now,” added her granddaughter, Emma VanDyk.
Awaiting Council’s approval, the branch is currently testing out increased hours. Maple Acre is currently open Tuesday and Friday from 11AM until 5PM, Wednesday from 11AM until 8PM, Thursday from 11AM until 7PM and Saturday from 9AM until noon. While the Maple Acre library is now open to the public, Weaver said they plan to host an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new branch in mid-February.