Donations give library big boost

Duane Hicks

The Fort Frances Public Library Board is over the moon about recent generous donations, which will increase its technological and educational capacity.
It has received $300,000 from the estate of Jack Gagne and $35,000 from the estate of Dino D’Agostini.
“We are thrilled to receive the donations and humbled to know that the library held a special place in the generous hearts of these gentlemen from our community,” said library CEO Alicia Subnaik Kilgour.
“This is a great story—one that is many years in the making,” she added, noting both men were avid readers and library users for decades.
“The ladies remember serving them at the counter, often helping them carry their books out to their cars,” noted Subnaik Kilgour, adding they continued to use the library later in life through the “Home Delivery” program.
“Their connections with the library spanned many, many years,” she remarked.
One of the projects to be funded with the Gagne donation is the library’s “Maker Space.”
This will be “a new collaborative and innovative space [within the library] for the community to come together to discover, explore, and create,” Subnaik Kilgour explained.
The space will include the latest technologies such as a 3-D printer (an electronic device which uses computer-aided designs to actually make three-dimensional objects) and a button maker.
“The ‘Maker Space’ will be named after Mr. Gagne, for sure, so we will acknowledge the donation that way,” said Subnaik Kilgour.
“But it’s also going to be a space that’s organic and changing.
“We hope to have the space up and running before the end of the year,” she noted.
“Right now, we are experimenting with the technology,” Subnaik Kilgour added. “There’s a little bit of a learning curve there.
“We have our 3-D printer but just learning to how to use it ourselves.”
The library board is working on a policy to outline what can and cannot be made with the 3-D printer.
The funds received from D’Agostini’s estate, meanwhile, will continue to support the projects he was passionate about, namely the “Forest of Reading” program and the library’s collections.
“Library staff connected with over 500 children in partnership with elementary schools to deliver the Blue Spruce ‘Forest of Reading’ program last year,” said Subnaik Kilgour.
“This program continues to foster a love of literacy and reading for children and families.”
“I’m beyond thrilled,” library board chair Andrew Hallikas said about the recent donations.
“The Fort Frances Public Library is an amazing place—not just because of the physical facility we have here but because of the programming that we do, the staff we have, and the ambience that’s here when people come off the street,” he remarked.
“What we are starting to see now with these donations is we get a number of bequests, but we also get people walking in off the street and making unsolicited donations,” Hallikas added.
Going back to the “Building for the Future” campaign to build the new library here, the public’s support has been “overwhelming,” Hallikas noted.
And that generosity is continuing to this day.
“Some of the comments we have been getting is that when people come into the library, they feel so welcome, they love the space, and they remember that,” said Hallikas.
“In essence, it prompts them to want to give back.
“The bottom line here is we’re excited about what we offer, we love our patrons, and it seems that some of them love us back in turn,” he smiled.
Hallikas said the library board not only recognizes donors but honours their wishes.
For example, the requirements for the Gagne donation include that the funds be utilized only for significant capital improvements to the library that will increase its technological or educational capacity.
Neither donation is intended to be used for operating expenses.
The funds will be invested and used, as required, in consultation with the estate trustees.
This, said Subnaik Kilgour, will enable the library to increase its technological and educational capacity for many years to come.
Both Hallikas and Subnaik Kilgour thanked the community for their continued support of the library over the years.
“This community is very generous and we are truly thankful for all the donations we receive, including the small donations,” said Subnaik Kilgour, adding sometimes a patron will give a little as $25.
But she stressed all donations are important in light of the town’s economic challenges and the library’s budget constraints.
And as times become harder, she added, library services become more essential to the well-being of the community.
With regards to the “Maker Space,” the library has been increasing its focus on the “technology centre” half of its name.
“As a library and tech centre, we like to be innovative, up to date, and current,” said Hallikas.
“And we want to appeal to pretty much every demographic we can.”
In addition to offering free wi-fi, having a computer lab, and having a state-of-the-art conference room with a “Smart Board,” the library recently purchased three GPS devices that it will loan out to patrons.
Someone could take a road trip using one, for instance, and then return it after get back home.
Similarly, a new display near the circulation desk shows all of the e-readers and tablets the library has that patrons can take for a “test drive.”
They can borrow the e-readers (Kobo, Kindle, and Nook) and take some of them home. The tablets, however, only can be used in the library.
The e-readers can be loaded up with e-books through the library’s “OverDrive” collection and other similar resources.
The library also has laptops patrons can use while there.