Beyond the books

Andrew Wagstaff
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Friends of the Pugwash Library seeking to leave cramped quarters behind

Friends of the Pugwash Library members (from left) Virginia Redden, Elaine Cook and Phyllis O’Connell are hoping to find a new home for the library, after years in the cramped confines of the train station building. Andrew Wagstaff - The Citizen

PUGWASH – The library here offers a lot for the community, but limited space at its current location has forced a group of local residents to begin a campaign to find a new home for the branch.

The Friends of the Pugwash Library, a group of about six to 10 volunteers, have been putting on a series of fundraisers while searching out a prospective new library building, with hopes of finding a space more suited to provide all the services offered by the Cumberland Regional Library.

“We’re trying to make people in the community aware of the great need for a new library,” said Elaine Cook, chairman of the group. “And the benefits are amazing.”

The Pugwash library has been located at the “train station” building since the branch was created in the community, replacing the previous bookmobile in 1988.

Library users knew the train station was an inadequate space the day they moved in, and understood at the time that it was only to b a temporary location, according to Cook, who has been involved with an effort to find a new home for the library for the past 10 years.

“Even if the village does restore this building, there is still not enough room in it,” she said. “It’s not suitable anymore, nor was it ever.”

The lack of space has meant that services such as special programming for children have not been offered in Pugwash, nor is there room for someone like a high school student who just wants to stop in and work on homework. The old building is too cold in the wintertime and too hot in the summertime, she explained.

But it’s also more than that, according to Virginia Redden, who said they would like to raise $180,000-200,000 with the campaign.

“It’s the building, but it’s also the demand in this area, because it’s a very busy branch,” said Redden, a member of the Friends group. “It’s more than the building being too small and inadequate, it’s that the demand is so high for services.”

In fact, the Pugwash branch is the second busiest in Cumberland County, second only to Amherst. In a village of only about 800 residents, it carries a membership of almost 1,000 cardholders.

Cumberland Regional Library chief librarian Beth Clinton said it is wonderful to see a group of people so dedicated to improving their library, and shared their view that the current space is not meeting the need.

“The branch is not large enough to hold its current collection of books, books are piled on top of the shelves and all space is filled to capacity,” she said. “Also, currently the branch is not wheelchair accessible at all and is not easy to navigate for anyone with any accessibility issues.”

Programs have to have small attendance limits or be held when the branch is closed, and sometimes library programs have to be held in other venues like the village commission building, Clinton explained.

The Friends have been successful in their fundraising efforts, with nearly $40,000 collected in about four years of activity. Every fall comes the Words and Music event, which took place this past weekend featuring Deanne Fitzpatrick, Marilyn Williams, Lee Fleming and Susan Arenburg.

Tickets are also being sold on a Christmas gift basket, and greeting cards are for sale. Other contributions such as memorial donations steadily trickle in, while the local business community has also been supportive. The local Co-Op gives its customers the opportunity to donate their two- to five-cent refunds from using reusable bags to the cause, while the local recycling depot offers a similar service.

Funding grants are also being investigated, and the library is rumoured to be a top priority in the Municipality of Cumberland County’s master plan for Pugwash, expected to be released this month.

“I get the feeling this is not impossible,” said Redden. “It’s very probable that it’s going to happen, and this little community is going to support it.”

Those wishing to support the Friends of the Pugwash Library, or to get involved in the project, are encouraged to contact Elaine Cook at 243-2616.

Organizations: Pugwash Library, Cumberland Regional Library

Geographic location: PUGWASH, Cumberland County, Amherst

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