A petition to save the Sydenham Branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL) has kept the library from coming under the expansion of the Municipality of South Frontenac office space, and local library patron Natacha Lees, who initiated the petition, is pleased.
The community first heard about the office expansion plans for South Frontenac Township on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, when the Township Council discussed a report on the Administrative Office Expansion Feasibility Study. The report laid out five possible scenarios for expansion of administrative office space, three of which involved either expanding into a portion of the library space or taking over the entire library.
Lees said, “When the news broke that the library was number two, three, and four on the [list of five] possibilities for the office expansion, I decided a petition was a good place to start, as it would give a large number of people a platform for expressing their concerns in a relatively efficient manner.”
The petition was started two weeks ago on Change.org and received 739 signatures in the first 72 hours. Lees also initiated a Facebook group, Save the Sydenham Library, for the cause, garnering further support. And the feelings of those in the community did not go unnoticed.
At a their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, noting the amount of support the petition had received from the community, the Council voted unanimously to remove the library entirely from the list.
“The Township needs more administrative office space, which I agree with,” said Councilor Ross Sutherland. “The plan was to get consultants to look at a bunch of options. A few included expanding the building to take over the library space and relocating the library to the Grace Centre expansion [on Stagecoach Road]. I don’t think there is a need to do that, for space, and I am worried that we would not end up with as nice a library.”
Lees launched her small business, West Wind Editing Services, at the KFPL Branch in Sydenham, which made it even closer to her heart when it came to saving the community space.
“I have attended beekeeping and other seminars in the building’s community room, I visit weekly to borrow books and other materials, and I have friends who work there. The library is staffed largely by people who live in the vicinity, and as someone said recently, it is the heartbeat of a small rural village and the surrounding area,” said Lees.
The KFPL Sydenham Branch is custom-built to be a library; it is wheelchair-accessible; it has the only public washrooms available year-round in the village hub; and it is a bright, welcoming space that is also environmentally friendly. It is accessible to many seniors, children, people on foot, and summer visitors in its current location, and it is also well-used by people who live in the country. Furthermore, the current branch was funded and supported by taxpayers and generous private donors.
“It is beloved as a symbol of what the community can accomplish when it comes together,” Lees said.