Three SD&G library branches could close by December

County councillor and library board chairman Bill McGimpsey glances at his tablet during a county council meeting Monday, June 20, 2016. The county may close up to three branches by December in a bid to keep the service running. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SD&G – As many as three SD&G County Library branches could close by December in a bid to keep the service viable long term.

County Coun. Bill McGimpsey shared his thoughts with council Monday after a committee meeting of the library board earlier this month.

The board is trying to balance services and bring a more even distribution of library hours across SD&G, especially in South Glengarry.

Hours had been streamlined before at the Dalkeith, Morewood and St. Andrews West branches.

The move created a lot of public controversy and the library board chairman believes this next decision won’t go over any better.

Dalkeith has 42 active library users.

“We can’t continue to deliver a mediocre service,” McGimpsey told Cornwall Newswatch.

Closing those branches alone could free up $150,000 in staff and resources that could be redeployed to other locations. For instance, Morrisburg, which was supposed to be the county’s “showcase” branch, could use more hours, McGimpsey said.

Operating an SD&G library branch costs roughly $52,000 for 15 hours.

In some locations, the county is paying the equivalent of $1,000 per user, he said.

“We have no more money. We cannot create hours out of nothing,” McGimpsey told council Monday.

“The ability to deliver services to a bigger number of people, we have some branches that are serving as few as 40 people and certainly in other areas we’ve become completely school-based,” Bill McGimpsey said.

“For instance, one of the branches is largely visited by schools but we’ve had a meeting with the principal of the school and we are discussing alternate delivery methods with them,” he said.

McGimpsey said some schools are looking at putting in their own library, “which would be great” when there are locations where the non-public usage is 80-85 per cent.

With the county taking over tourism, McGimpsey believes there’s an opportunity to enhance the remaining branches. McGimpsey believes whatever remains of today’s 18 locations, some may be strategically located close to the waterfront to deliver other services, such as tourism information.

The decision is entirely up to the library board as the county only provides the funding.

A decision will come during a special meeting of the seven-member library board at a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting this summer.