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This ain’t your grandma’s library

Budget request looks to bring more tech and upgrades, plus security, to city's libraries

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Libraries are not just for books anymore.

On Nov. 17, the Oshawa Public Libraries presented its budget for the upcoming year complete with a list of new technologies and infrastructure upgrades to help carry the city’s libraries into the future.

Among the new technologies, the library plans to develop an online homework help service, deliver further music and video streaming services and upgrade its express checkout software.

“This isn’t your grandmother’s library anymore,” said Councillor Nancy Diamond.

On top of that, the OPL plans to undergo a rebranding with a new website and logo to refresh the organization’s appearance in 2017, as well as develop an OPL app for smartphones and tablets.

“This will enhance how we engage with our community members…it also enhances our image,” said Wendy Castanha, the OPL’s manager of accounting.

However, the new tech comes at a price. While the OPL is seeking the standard 2.5 per cent increase to its nearly $9-million budget, it will require an additional $216,000 to see these projects come to fruition.

Along with the rebrand and app development costs – estimated to cost almost $40,000 – cash will be needed for much needed infrastructure repairs. The big ticket item will be a $120,000 roof replacement at the McLaughlin branch, $60,000 for concrete maintenance and repairs, and $30,000 for a “refresh” of the Legends Centre branch to update its apperance with new carpet and furniture.

The plans were only a piece of what OPL CEO France Newman called a “robust capital plan” in the years ahead.

OPL is also requesting additional funds for security at various branches, including $12,500 for camera replacements and $8,000 for additional security guard hours to address complaints from patrons regarding homeless people in the library.

“We are not the primary caregiver for homeless people,” Newman says. “We’e had a lot of concerns from our long-time users.”

Noting that they do their best to help these indviduals with any resources they may need to get help, Newman says they are also allowed to stay if they are using the libraries services and not disturbing anyone.

“When we get complaints that somebody is bothering someone, that’s when we step in,” the CEO adds.

The final decision on the OPL budget will be made by council during budget deliberations, which are slated to begin in January.