City, county begin work on library improvement plan

The downtown Sarnia Library branch.

Troy Shantz

With emergency repairs now complete at the downtown branch, Sarnia has begun work on much bigger library improvements.

Council recently authorized city staff to collaborate with Lambton County to implement two reports that will dramatically overhaul the city’s library services.

Bringing the downtown branch up to snuff will cost about $4.5 million, said Sarnia’s property manager.

“Basically that facility needs to be completely renovated,” Vince Wijsman said. “Everything has a life cycle.”

Money has already been budgeted for new second floor washrooms, a family washroom, making the rear entrance accessible, and six new heating and cooling units.

A city commissioned report last year by Lighthouse Consulting and LGA Architectural Partners looked at user statistics, services offered and the layout of floor space needed in a modern community library.

Plans have been devised for all three city’s branches.

Bright’s Grove library, which shares space with Gallery in the grove, needs $400,000 in upgrades, including an addition and accessibility lift.

Wijsman said the main focus is on the downtown branch, which is owned by the city but managed and staffed by the county.

The plan is to open it up to the street and Veteran’s Park, separate teen from adult space, and turn the second-floor exterior deck into an outdoor reading area.

The Mallroad library would double its floor space by leasing an adjoining storefront.

“Mallroad will be discussed, but we have to look at what the priority is… based on the users,” he said.

Some $337,000 has already been invested in the downtown branch, including accessible first-floor washrooms, roof drains and some electrical upgrades.

About one-third of the money paid for emergency electrical and waterline repairs needed after a fire in the basement forced the library’s closure for five weeks this summer.