Library eyeing storage shed

Duane Hicks

The Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre wants to build a storage shed on town property to keep its excess stuff, but it also will look at space under the ’52 Canadians Arena as a second option.
The library has been using a storage locker–as well as some library staff members’ homes–to keep extra items which only are used occasionally and there’s no room for them at the library itself.
Library board chair Andrew Hallikas said the library wants permission from the town to build a three-metre by five-metre storage shed on town property near the library.
The entire cost of the shed would be paid for by the “Friends of the Library,” so there would be no cost to the library or town.
Hallikas said the need for proper storage was brought up a couple of years ago by former library CEO Alicia Subnaik Kilgour, who had approached the library board after being prompted by staff and the “Friends of the Library.”
“In a sense, really the library has become a victim of its own success,” he noted.
“Our programming has continued to increase in popularity and as a result, it has been expanded as the community need and requests have dictated.
“Consequently, the library continues to acquire a wide variety of stuff–props, equipment, things that we use in our programming,” Hallikas added.
“And what’s happened is storage spaces within the library itself have become filled to the point of becoming not only a fire hazard but a health and safety hazard,” he stressed.
“It’s gotten bad,” Hallikas said. “It’s gotten to the point that our employees and ‘Friends of the Library’ members and some board members, myself included, are taking equipment home and storing it in their basements and their garages until needed.
“That’s not really a tenable situation,” he remarked. “So staff and our new CEO [Caroline Goulding, and rightly so, petitioned our board to do something abut this.”
As a temporary measure, the library has rented a storage unit on the outskirts of town. This is far from ideal, however, as the distance from the library makes it inconvenient to access it if something is needed on short notice.
The board and CEO have discussed the matter with town staff and decided the only practical solution is to build a storage shed nearby on library property if council gives its permission to do so.
Care would be taken that the new shed would not mar the sightlines to the library or spoil the aesthetics of the site, noted Hallikas, adding there are some suitable locations near the library and Sportsplex where a shed could be built.
The exact location would have to meet council approval.
“This is a win-win-win situation that’s beneficial to the town, the library, and residents of Fort Frances,” Hallikas remarked.
And I see it as a unique opportunity for the library, the town, and the community volunteers to partner together for the greater good, for all of us.”
Goulding provided more insight as to why the current, off-site storage arrangement is not working.
She noted that right now, staff will go to get whatever is needed–Hallowe’en decorations, Christmas decorations, programming stuff for the Teddy Bear Picnic–and bring it back to the library, but then have nowhere to put it until the programming happens.
“It ends up in the Shaw Room, in the maker space, in the staff washroom, or in my office while we’re waiting to use it,” said Goulding, noting having on-site storage would mean staff would be able to move some of the items they’ve currently got jammed into places they really shouldn’t be, such as the library’s mechanical and electrical rooms.
Fort Frances CAO Doug Brown asked why the library hasn’t considered an expansion to the current facility rather than building a new structure that ultimately will have to be maintained by the town?
But Hallikas said building a storage shed seemed like a straightforward, modest idea, as opposed to having to call on an architect to look at adding on to the building–potentially a more costly avenue.
Brown suggested the library look at any storage space available in the Memorial Sports Centre.
Community Services manager Jason Kabel said there’s some space available underneath the ’52 Canadians Arena seating that’s hard to access, and is wet and cold. With some work, however, it could be used for storage.
The advantage of this option is that there would be no separate roof to maintain and electricity already would be provided, he added, noting that using some money earmarked for the shed to upgrade the space under the rink could be a less expensive option than building a new shed.
On the other hand, Kabel admitted the space “is not a great environment,” is subject to extreme humidity, and would be difficult to heat.
Goulding noted some of the items the library has to store includes everything from RFID (radio-frequency identification) gates and a very large lawn bowling apparatus to fishing rods, Teddy Bear Picnic items, guinea pig shavings, some books, hula hoops, styrofoam, and “Wheel of Fortune” spinners.
Because the items include electronic, wood, and cardboard, the storage space would have to have some humidity control.
Hallikas said he and Goulding would take a look at the space and would cost out both options.
Council made no decision regarding permission to use town property.