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Callander Library preparing for a new chapter as community hub

'Our library right now is 1,100 square feet. We have no room for programming and it's not accessible. We have the property and we're hoping that the whole project will be completed in two years, maybe sooner if we get the funding." Helen McDonnell Callander Public Library CEO

The Callander Public Library has outgrown its 1,100 square foot building, and is in desperate need of a new home. The plan is to construct a new building on property purchased by the municipality years ago for economic development, near the Government Dock. 

"It's a beautiful lot. It's waterfront, so the design is going to compliment that," said library CEO Helen McDonnell.

"Our library right now is about 1,100 square feet and we have no room for programming, and it's not accessible. We have no room for expansion, so a new library will provide capabilities for programming and increase the number of books. We would love to have an area where people can meet and socialize and we can also provide reading space where they can sit and read and look out at the lake. It will be great." 

Mayor Hec Lavigne has just received a copy of the architectural designs. 

"I have yet to bring them forward to council for vetting. It won't necessarily be the last drawing, but it's about 5 to 6,000 square feet of building. Council will review the drawings within the next couple of weeks in a committee of the whole meeting, so we can have some discussion."

The other important part of the equation is determining the price. 

"What's next is the report that goes along with the drawing that outlines the cost. It will be available within the next week or two as well.  We want to make sure what we want is achievable," said the Mayor. 

What the library board wants is an inviting space to meet the growing needs of all ages. The CEO says out of a population of about 4,000, nearly half are library patrons.  

"We're looking at enough space to have an adult programming room, a children's programming room, a couple of small meeting rooms, and more staff space. We're going to take advantage of the property and make it the hub of the community," said McDonnell. 

McDonnell points out that even in this age of technology where books can be downloaded, people still like going to a building to sign out books and take part in programs.

"I think that's a big part of it too. We do a lot of technology training in the library, we have a lot of classes going on. We have a lot of literacy programs, we have knitting programs. We have all kinds of ideas for things that we could do. We could have musical presentations there, and hopefully the building will be wired for that and make it a place where people can rent the venue even. I think there's lots of opportunities."  

To date, the New Callander Library Fundraising Committee has raised a quarter of a million dollars to help the project move forward. The most recent event was a sold out fashion show and luncheon at Osprey Links in Callander, where close to 80 women came out to support the cause.

Committee chair Marg Moody says this is an important project.  

"People ask what we need a new library for and I say, it's not just books, we do everything. We have children's programs, we have adult programs, we have teaching programs. This is for the community, and we will continue to do things like this very successful fashion show to continue to fundraise.  And I tell you, I'd rather have an actual book in my hand than a reader any day."  

The mayor says for the past 15 years, council has been putting aside between $25,000 and $40,000 dollars annually to help cover the cost of the project.

"I would hope through the fundraising activities and council's consideration to maintaining that process of putting money away every year, that we're going to cover our share," said Lavigne.

"Everything you build whether it's going to be a road or building or whatever, you're looking at a couple million dollars, three million dollars. So depending on the formula's the government uses for grants, we're looking forward to maximizing the grant process and continue on in the fundraising events so that it wouldn't have any negative effect on either budgets or long-term planning. I think a combination of the fundraising money and municipal money, we're probably in the $400,000 range in terms of money in the bank now."

Once final approval is given on the design and price-tag, the corporate fundraising campaign can begin. 

"We're hoping that the whole project will be completed in two years, maybe sooner if we get the funding. A lot of it hinges on whether we can get government funding and how our corporate fundraising goes," said the library CEO. 

In the meantime, events like fashion shows help with the fundraising efforts.