Library services remain at status quo in Simcoe County

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The task force will continue to study efficiencies within the current library model, with another report to be submitted to the county council in the new year.

Editor’s Note: As a separate city, the following story does not affect people who use Barrie Public Library services.

At the Simcoe County Council meeting on Tuesday morning, councilors voted to maintain the status quo on the make-up of library systems across the county.

However, the regional government’s Examination Service Delivery Task Force says it will come up with further recommendations in the new year that could improve the efficiency of libraries in Simcoe County.

In October, KPMG Consulting first presented a draft report on the effectiveness of library services in Simcoe County to the task force. The report outlines three options for local libraries in the future:

  • Option 1: Maintain a modified status quo
  • Option 2: several union committees in the county
  • Option 3: Simcoe County would establish a county library with all lower-tier municipal libraries

The consultant recommended option 3, which he estimated would result in annual savings of approximately $3 million in service delivery.

Shortly after the report was released, Simcoe County Libraries in towns such as Collingwood, Bradford West Gwillimbury and Penetanguishene voiced their opposition to Option 3, raising concerns that the passage to a county library system would undermine the autonomy of individual libraries, as well as the quality of the report.

For our full story on the opposition and criticisms of the report, click here.

After reviewing all options at their Nov. 9 meeting, the task force voted to recommend Option 1 to Simcoe County Council as the way forward.

At Tuesday’s meeting before the vote, Springwater Township Mayor Don Allen asked task force chair Wasaga Beach Mayor Nina Bifolchi why the task force’s recommendation differed from the recommendation of the consultant.

“The (task force) felt that option 3 was a bit too aggressive and we could look at our current state of how we do things while looking for improvements,” Bifolchi said, noting that ideas from Possible improvements could be presented to the board in January for further consideration.

Simcoe County Chief Administrative Officer Mark Aitken said some suggestions put forward by the consultants under Options 2 and 3 warrant further investigation to create more savings.

Midland Deputy Mayor Mike Ross said he supports Option 3.

“I wholeheartedly support Option 3. I think it was a no-brainer, in my eyes,” Ross said.

On Tuesday, the council voted overwhelmingly in favor of Option 1.

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