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Fresh paint, new chairs, more toddler space coming to downtown library

Focus of $289,000 in grant funding will be on making the branch a destination, not an errand, for families
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St. Albert's Downtown Library is getting a spruce up thanks to some grant money from the federal government. Library CEO Peter Bailey (left) and customer services manager Kathleen Troppmann (right) say new shelves for the children's section and the expansion of the toddler section are just a couple of the changes that lay ahead. JENNIFER HENDERSON/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert's downtown library is getting a facelift thanks to a new federal grant.

The children’s section will be getting a makeover, with a replacement of the shelves from the 1980s, along with some extra love in the toddler section, according to library customer services manager Kathleen Troppmann.

The $289,000 in funding for the library comes through the Canada Community Revitalization Fund (CCRF), which supports infrastructure in communities through projects that revitalize their downtown cores. The library will also kick in around $90,000 of its own funds for the spruce up.

The toddler section will be expanded and changed, Troppmann said, and the location will have a bigger focus on literacy and social play spaces for toddlers which will include the STEAM Program elements of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, along with interactive elements.  

“We're still working on some of the design elements specifically, but there will be some really eye-catching, interactive pieces for kids and families,” Troppmann said.

The library conducted a user survey earlier this year and what they heard back is their visitors wanted more spaces to sit and relax, Troppmann said. The library is using the survey to help guide what changes they will make with the funding.

“We heard the request for more places to gather, more quiet seating spaces. Families would like spaces to gather together to meet at the library and spend time,” Troppmann said.

The cash injection will allow the library to provide some comfortable seating for families to come relax, along with a fresh coat of paint. All of the funding will go toward spaces the public uses, rather than behind the scenes of the library.

“The primary focus is to make [the library] not an errand, but a destination,” Troppmann said.

Most of the changes to the library will be on the first floor, but if there is time and money left, Troppmann said they will adjust the technology area on the second floor and add in some makerspace elements.

Library CEO Peter Bailey said the new changes will help bring some of the airy and welcoming spirit of the Jensen Lakes location to the downtown branch.

The funding must be spent by November and Troppmann said they hope they can get the job done by then, despite supply chain issues.

A lot of the changes may happen in stages and the library plans to stay open during the renovations — set to take place in summer and fall — but switching over the vintage shelves in the children’s section may limit access to certain areas of the library for short periods of time.

Currently, the library still hasn’t recovered from COVID-19, with foot traffic into the building down 25 per cent since before services shut down. Bailey said they are trying to bring people back to the space.

Libraries are known for their books and the materials in the building, but Bailey said the modern library is a community space for everyone to gather.

“The actual place is really important. It’s significant thing for the community and the ability for people to come here. It's an open public space and welcome to everyone regardless of who you are, how much money you make, you’re welcome here. You can stay as long as you want,” Bailey said.

Stakeholder consultation work has already begun, with Reimagine Architects (formerly Manaasc Isaac) leading the project.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Great West Media based in St. Albert, Alta.
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