Plans underway for grand opening of new library

Duane Hicks

Plans are well underway for the grand opening of the new Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre in June.
The grand opening week—or “GO Week”—celebration will begin Monday, June 21 and run right until closing time on Friday, June 25.
There will be a full range of activities throughout the week that will highlight and incorporate different user groups and different parts of the library.
“What we want to achieve during the ‘GO Week’ is to educate the community—the general public and the business community—about how the library is for them, and all the new opportunities that this facility is going to present,” said Mark Kowalchuk, who is chairing the grand-opening committee.
“It’s a whole new facility that people will be able to learn about,” he noted.
It also will be a chance for everyone “to see what all the excitement has been about for the past two years,” Kowalchuk added.
The doors of the new library will be open to the public a week or two prior to the grand opening, he clarified, adding this time will give library staff time to “work out some wrinkles” and become familiar with all the new technology that has been brought in.
That way, when the grand opening takes place, they’ll be ready to explain it all to library patrons.
The first day of “GO Week” will see delegates from the municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government invited to the library for an opening ceremony that morning, which the public also is encouraged to attend.
This will include speeches and a ribbon-cutting, followed by a free barbecue and tours of the new facility.
“This will give a chance for anybody who hadn’t been to the library in the previous week or two to come in and meet with staff and [learn] what all the new technology is, how books are going to be processed, how people can take books out,” noted Kowalchuk.
“All of the new facility features that are not available in the present library.”
The first day also will be a chance for patrons to see the donor wall, which Kowalchuk stressed will be ready for the grand opening, as well as all of the areas of the library which have been named after specific donors to the “Building for the Future” fundraising campaign.
“Many of the areas in the library have been naming opportunities, so this will be an opportunity for people who have made sizable donations to spend some time in those areas, and for us to thank them properly for their contributions and commitment to the project,” Kowalchuk remarked.
The second day of “GO Week” (Tuesday, June 22) will be “Business Day.”
“The business community will be welcomed and the library features that would apply directly to people in business will be highlighted,” Kowalchuk explained.
“We’ll have guest speakers coming in for that,” he noted, citing representatives from the Innovation Centre in Thunder Bay and the iSchool at the University of Toronto will be making presentations.
More information about this will be revealed down the road.
Then that evening, children’s entertainer Al Simmons will be performing at the new library. At the same time, the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s “Business After Hours” mix-and-mingle will be held in the Shaw Communications room there.
The third day will be “School Day,” with Kowalchuk explaining the elementary schools in town will be invited to send classes to tour the new facility, followed by a picnic outside (students will be asked to bring their own food).
Children’s book characters will be making an appearance that day, providing some entertainment as they have their lunches.
“Friends of the Library” also will be providing plenty of support at this event, as well as at others throughout the week.
Kowalchuk also said the library is planning to bury a time capsule at a future date, with the grand-opening committee inviting schools to participate by making contributions of memorabilia.
Schools will be contacted about this through a newsletter in the near future.
The fourth day (Thursday, June 24) will be “Kids Day,” when pre-school children will be invited to the library from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Kowalchuk said there will be a “Mad Hatter’s Tea” (based on Alice in Wonderland) as well as different activities throughout the library, with stations featuring crafts and the like.
And the final day of “GO Week” (Friday, June 25) will be “Seniors’ Day” and “Teen Day.” There will be another “Mad Hatter’s Tea,” this time for seniors, from 2-4 p.m.
“It’s going to be a good, fun thing,” Kowalchuk enthused. “We’re encouraging people to make up a hat. We’ll have judging on the best hat and some prizes.
“Make a real fun afternoon out of that, maybe have some live rabbits and people in costumes.
“Maybe have some croquet outside, bocce ball—take full advantage of what we have in this new facility, the library, parking lot, and the grounds around the area.”
That evening, teens will be invited to come out from 5-9 p.m. for pizza and soft drinks, and participate in making their own movies about the new library using the technology available there.
“The teens will have the full run of the facility for their productions, so we’re looking to see some pretty exciting films come from that evening,” said Kowalchuk.
“It’s going to be good.”
There also may be other activities that evening, but those plans are still be confirmed.
Summarizing “GO Week,” Kowalchuk said the new facility is impressive—and organizers wanted to make its grand opening equally so.
“We wanted to make the grand opening more than just a single-day event, more than just a ribbon-cutting,” he stressed.
“We’ve got a great committee, and they’re working their hearts out to make this an exciting week.”
The library building committee started talking about the grand opening when construction began, but the grand opening committee only was put together in February—and they’ve been at it ever since.
“It looks like everything is pretty well set up, so we’re pretty confident that once the invitations go out to the dignitaries, we will have a full schedule of events for everybody to participate in,” Kowalchuk remarked.
“To showcase our library and tech centre, and also showcase our community for visitors outside the area who have been supporters of the project, from other libraries and other communities in the area and certainly as far as the deep south of Ontario.
“It’s going to be a wonderful opportunity to showcase what Fort Frances has to offer,” he enthused.
“We want all people to come and enjoy everything,” echoed library board chair Joyce Cunningham, noting the grand opening is not just for special guests and government dignitaries.
“Sometimes you have a ribbon-cutting, and . . . the people using it never get to be a part of it. That’s not what we want,” she stressed.
Kowalchuk said one way the community can get involved in the grand opening, besides attending the festivities, is for the entertainers among them to lend their talents to the proceedings.
“We’re looking at having some entertainment throughout the week. We’re looking for buskers, people who would be willing to do some volunteer entertainment,” he explained.
These could be individuals or a small group who play guitar, juggle, or do just about anything.
“We’re planning to show just how dynamic libraries are, and to make it more than just a place where you can go and read a book,” Kowalchuk remarked.
“We think making this a venue for people to do some busking will be kind of a fun thing.”
He did say prospective buskers should be prepared to give an audition or offer some kind of “audition tape,” so organizers have a sense of what kind of entertainment they provide.
Those wanting to entertain should drop by the library, call 274-9879, or e-mail