Library chairman defends cuts to Dalkeith branch

SD&G Coun. Chris McDonell listens to an answer from library board chairman Bill McGimpsey (not shown) over the reduction of hours at the Dalkeith branch on Monday, March 21, 2016. McDonell, mayor of North Glengarry, says the changes came as a shock to some of his constituents. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SD&G – The chairman of the county library board and North Glengarry’s mayor squared off Monday over the recent cuts to the SD&G County Library Dalkeith branch.

The branch on County Road 23 recently had its service chopped from four days to two. It’s now open 2-6 p.m. on Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The elimination of seven hours at the library will save the county roughly $1,500 an hour (yearly) in wages or just over $10,000 (a year) for a branch which sees 40 monthly users.

During Monday’s county council meeting, Coun. Chris McDonell, also the mayor of North Glengarry, told council the news of reducing the hours at the Dalkeith branch “came as quite a shock to some of the people up there.”

McDonell argued that it cost as much to run the library for four days as it does for two.

“People use the library, some of them for Internet because of the terrain there it’s not very good Internet…there’s about 200 people on that petition and I don’t think that should be done to the library in that manner,” McDonell said.

The North Glengarry mayor also questioned why the cuts were not brought up during budget time nor were township staff made aware of the impending cuts until it was done.

McDonell was also upset the township didn’t know about the new hours until the library was closed.

But Coun. Bill McGimpsey, chairman of the SD&G County Library Board, said the service was reviewed and it came down to numbers.

“The Dalkeith branch in one week would have 79 books taken out and 63 of those 79 books are taken out on two days,” McGimpsey said.

He conceded the board could have better prepared township officials of the changes by notifying chief administrative officers beforehand.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, McGimpsey expected the blow back from the community.

“Yes, we were. I’ve been there long enough and I’ve seen anytime you make any changes to what people are familiar with, particularly in libraries, they become very passionate. This is not detrimental. We are trying to compress the hours of usage or take away the hours that are not being used and better serve the citizens as a whole,” McGimpsey said.

The branch has roughly 40 monthly users and the average user takes out ten books, he said.

“The cost of operating that branch, not including all the exterior costs and inventories, is about $41,000 a year. It was deemed an outpost-type branch in our strategic plan because it’s so far from everywhere else. But a lot of the other businesses and facilities have closed so the people who are living there do have just the library,” McGimpsey said.

He said about 10-20 per cent of the users were on the off-days they eliminated.

McGimpsey is not ruling out the hours coming back in some another form, possibly diversifying the branch in the future, similar to the Morrisburg branch where dog tags and blue boxes are sold.

“Just as, one time gas stations used to sell cigarettes and gas. Well, now you go in there you can almost take a shopping cart in there…they’ve diversified,” he said.

“I’m suggesting that people give it time to get used to it,” McGimpsey said during the council meeting.