Pincher Creek library taking steps toward expansion

·5 min read

If you’ve been to Pincher Creek Municipal Library lately, the first thing you probably noticed was the sheer amount of items available for checkout.

While the number of books is a good sign for local bibliophiles, the small space is beginning to hinder day-to-day operations, presenting as a lack of adequate office space for staff, storage for the outdoor equipment the library rents out, and an area for community events the library hosts.

Expanding the library has been on the board of directors’ radar for quite some time, with a formal delegation going before town council last autumn. Currently, requests for proposals are being sent to architects and engineering firms to create a plan of what an expansion could look like.

“Until we have the plan, it is very difficult to know what funds we will need,” says Michael Barkwith, a board member who has been working on the expansion plans.

“Right now we are speaking with the town since they own the whole of the recreation centre and any expansion must be done through and with the town. We’re also keeping the MD appraised to produce a plan for a fair and reasonable way to expand the library.”

While the expansion won’t happen immediately, Barkwith says securing the engineering and architectural plans now will help get the ball rolling for serious discussions next year.

“We hope to get the contract this year, and then hopefully over the winter period we will get the plans built up so we have a plan to present very early next year,” he adds.

Preliminary expansion plans include a larger children’s area as well as increased office space for staff. Private study rooms that would be available for booking are something the board wants to include, and connecting an auditorium to the library for public events is also being considered.

Coun. Mark Barber, town council’s representative on the library board, says starting the planning process now will ensure the town has the information it needs to help move ahead with the library’s expansion.

“The footprint they have right now is too small,” Barber says. “They’ve been working really hard to put together funds for expansion plans.”

The town is currently involved in building a new curling rink near the golf course; once that project is completed, Barber continues, expanding the library is the next logical project.

“A lot of things have to fall into place for this to come together,” he adds.

The most likely place for the library to expand is eastward into the parking lot. Though the lot is fully utilized now, Barber says demolishing the old curling rink to create a parking lot after the curling club moves to its new location would provide a good replacement.

Expanding the library won’t be cheap, though some of the cost could be offset with grant funding, which is where completing the engineering plans come into play.

“Unless you have the plans, a sort of shovel-ready project, the grants are hard to come by,” Barber says.

The plans themselves, of course, come with a price tag. Library reserve funds are one source available, as well as a generous $300,000 donation from Glen and Lois Mumey.

The Mumeys felt donating to the library was a worthy cause after speaking with Janice Day, the former manager. When a provincial matching program was announced last fall, they decided to move ahead with their donation.

“We thought we should act very quickly if we were going to have a chance at it,” Glen recalls. “The library ended up being ineligible for it, so we decided just to leave it in.”

The Mumeys used to live in the Edmonton area, with a farm outside Wetaskiwin and Glen working as a professor of finance at the University of Alberta. The family bought a cabin in the Porcupine Hills in 1998 before settling permanently in the Burmis area in 2002.

“We’ve really enjoyed life down here,” Glen says. “We have some money to spare and enjoy the community here and don’t think we should wait for taxpayers to do everything. We feel some responsibility for individuals who can’t afford it, to help in the community.”

Contributing to the library’s plans, he continues, is a good way to help, and going public with the donation is one way the Mumeys felt they could help the others become aware of the project and support it.

“The place certainly could do with a makeover, and they do need a little more space for staff. It’s a chance to rethink the library — I do think it’s an important institution for the community,” says Glen.

“I’ve looked at quite a few libraries and done some reading, and I'm quite convinced that a library like ours should interest people in reading,” he continues.

“You don’t need to go there to look things up — you can do that at home with Google and Wikipedia. You should be able to go and see some interesting things.”

In particular, an auditorium would be a worthy addition so the library could be a cultural centre for the community, Glen adds.

“It wouldn’t be a big auditorium, but they really don’t have very good space for the kind of things you could do with a 100-seat auditorium,” he says.

The library is planning on sending out requests for proposals for engineering plans this month.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze