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Innisfil delays library decision amid 'unanswered questions'

'It seems to be there are certain townships that don’t have the same connection that we do with the library board and what they provide to the community,' says councillor
202-09-22 Innisfil IdeaLAB and Library
Innisfil ideaLAB and Library

The County of Simcoe will have to wait most of the summer before the Town of Innisfil decides about the future of its library service.

Innisfil council deferred receiving a letter from the county about the establishment of Information Library Services (ILS) until at least after its Aug. 10 meeting. Then, the town’s library board will give an overview to councillors with all the information available about the county’s plan and the impact it will have on Innisfil residents.

The county sent letters to each municipality and each library board at the beginning of June outlining the ILS transitioning away from the Simcoe County Library Co-operative.

The ILS would “focus its services on providing software as a service (SaaS) to existing Simcoe County libraries,” the letter stated, adding the county would assume existing licensing costs and project-management costs, while the “available assets and resources of the Simcoe County Library Co-operative (would) be distributed to the municipal libraries.”

County council adopted the resolution to form the ILS at its April 26 meeting. Consulting firm KPMG first presented its findings to county council in October, providing three options:

  • Option 1: Maintain a modified status quo
  • Option 2: Multiple union boards in the county
  • Option 3: Simcoe County would establish a county library with all lower-tier municipal libraries

Option 3 was the recommendation from KPMG, which county councillors first debated last fall before deferring. The consultant suggested a county-operated library system would be more efficient than the current local library systems in place in each municipality to the tune of about $3 million annually.

Innisfil councillors joined their colleagues from Bradford West Gwillimbury in voting against the establishment of ILS, including Mayor Lynn Dollin, who serves as the county’s Deputy Warden.

“I look forward to hearing what the board comes up with,” Dollin said. “I think there’s still a lot of unanswered questions.”

Dollin says she and Deputy Mayor Dan Davidson lamented the loss of multi-lingual books through the ILS, essential to a community with the growing diversity of Innisfil, and questioned the impact on the smaller communities in the county that don’t have the town’s resources.

Davidson cautioned the impact of this decision is one future councils will have to deal with.

“We’re basically being asked to open up our library to the entire Simcoe County and we’re the ones paying for it,” he said. “Council be aware – or future council be aware – you may have to really defend our library board in the future and the costs that are associated with it.”

What Coun. Ken Fowler has learned through the process is that Innisfil’s connection to its library is stronger than found in many other municipalities and he feels the changes proposed at the county level are being driven by those interests

“When we were having this discussion with the library board, it became apparent that the people who were making decisions for what is coming down the pipe don’t have the same relationship that we have with the local library,” said Coun. Ken Fowler. “It seems to be there are certain townships that don’t have the same connection that we do with the library board and what they provide to the community.”

The county had asked for an answer from municipalities on joining the ILS by July 10.

— With files from Jessica Owen