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Archive moving to Belleville public library

Story by John R. Moodie

The community archives of Belleville and Hastings County historical society will be getting a new home in the near future.

This Monday Belleville city council approved the re-location of the Belleville and Hastings county archive. The Historical society has proposed that the archive be moved to Belleville’s central library.

“This means one stop shopping where you can go to the library and the archives all in one day,” said Trevor Pross, chief executive officer for the Belleville public library in an interview on Thursday.

With a mandate from city council, the archive has been directed to prepare the legal agreement. Once the agreement has been prepared, it will be presented to council for approval.

The Belleville library has invited the archive to move into what is now its lounge area on the second floor.

“Right now the space is being used for the biography section and magazines. It is a lounge area and study area. The library plans to make space available in other areas of the library,” said Pross.

The proposed move will mean a loss of study space at the library but a more economic use of space, he said.

The new location will provide the historical society with 700 square feet of room for the archive.

The library floor space is about the same as the Cannifton location but a high density storage unit has been proposed to take advantage of the high ceiling.

“The archive has 3000 square feet at the Cannifton location. This would give us 2-3 times more usable space,” said Sharon White, Belleville archivist after the council meeting.

The high-density storage space would create a freestanding elevated platform that would give the archive an additional floor of storage.

The proposed cost of repurposing cost of repurposing the library space for the archive would cost $1.3 million dollars, said Mark Fluhrer, Belleville director of recreation, culture and community services.

Fluhrer said council has agreed to declare the Cannifton location surplus and sell it. The proceeds of the sale would be used to offset the costs of the archive.

He said the space itself would cost about $30,000 or less per year to maintain.

The proposed space would accommodate the over one million negatives the archive has collected from the Belleville Intelligencer and documentation of council minutes.

“This gives a written document of the community that is invaluable,” said Fluhrer.

Originally the historical the historical society and the city were looking at Irish Hall as a possible location to move the archive.

“The hall would have worked, but it would have been and extraordinary expense to address and deal with some of the site conditions,” said Fluhrer.

Due to the amount of paper documents the archive is responsible for, humidity plays a major factor in considering a location.

White said the Irish Hall did not have proper insulation to hold the humidity.

“It is not a suitable building. It doesn’t have the proper environmental controls, to control the humidity,” said White. “The danger is condensation could form on the wall, which can lead to mold.”

At the proposed library location, a new HVAC system would be installed for the archives to provide a controlled environment.

“They need very low humidity, 40-45% humidity. The library has less than 60% humidity usually, but cannot bring it down to that level of humidity,” said Pross.

He said cost the library would create an agreement to share a percentage of the facilities operating costs. The costs would include heating, hydro, insurance and the proposed HVAC system.

Pross said cost sharing was also a factor in the decision to open up the library to the archives.

“We are always trying to save money and that’s obviously a big part of moving the archives here,” said Pross.

He said cost sharing would also save the city money. City funding accounts for about 92% of the libraries budget each year.

Though Pross says the library isn’t under direct pressure by the city to reduce costs, he said the board is one of that governs the library and they are concerned with costs.

“That is certainly a factor. The benefit is to the taxpayer overall is saving taxpayer dollars, it will save the library money with the sharing of resources,” said Pross.

White said the move is also necessary because the current location of the archive is not accessible to the public.

“It is not an accessible building, and it is not on a public transit route, so you need a car to get there,” said White.

Fluhrer said if the archive was at the library it would be downtown and more centrally located.

“The increased traffic the archive will bring will be a good thing for the library,” said Fluhrer.

He said the library and the archive will be a natural fit.

“When you look in the context of a revitalized downtown, part of what we are hoping to do is turn the downtown into a cultural centre. This is a key component of creating a cultural centre,” said Fluhrer.

White said there is no solid start date but if everything goes according to plan, repurposing the archive to accommodate the library could start early 2014.