Sandy Casselman
Villager Staff

EMBRUN – During its last council meeting in June, the township of Russell’s politicians welcomed resident Cynthia MacRae who spoke about a campaign to save the local library.

“I represent the team of eight dedicated women that launched the Save the Russell Library Campaign,” MacRae said. “The intent of the campaign was to be proactive and informative so the perspective of township residents could be taken into account early, as planning for the recreation complex proceeds.”

MacRae’s group, which includes Joyce Cameron, Lynda Kemp, Karen Lovenuk, Lynn McKinnon, Jane Patterson, Kim Wijsman, and Chris Windover, started the campaign in response to the news that the future Russell Recreation Complex will have a library that could lead to an amalgamation of the already existing branches. The campaign kicked off on April 8, MacRae said.

MacRae’s presentation included a written report, along with survey results and resident testimonials. The objectives of the campaign included being proactive and informing council of residents’ views before the final plans for the new complex are set.

“I appreciate very much that you were able to get your group together and do this incredible analysis, if you will, of information that you received,” Mayor Pierre Leroux said. “I think that’s very important while we move forward with discussions and community engagement in the future. It’s nice to know that there’s a lot of engagement and I’m looking forward to having those discussions.”

During the group’s 54-day website campaign, roughly 1,063 residents expressed support for maintaining separate branches. The website campaign ran from April 8 to May 31. In addition to providing background information, the website included an online form for residents to complete, as a paper petition had been ruled out due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“We’ve had a library in the village core since the early 1800s,” Coun. Cindy Saucier said. “I thought that was kind of interesting. And as a user of the library, I also value it very much. I’m in many groups that are held in the library.”

MacRae’s presentation included a list of reasons to save the library ranging from sentimental to logistical. It was noted that the building is only 10 years old and built to be a library. It’s close to schools and residential areas, making it accessible by walking and cycling. The Russell Library, the group said, is a cherished hub.

“I love grassroots movements,” Coun. Mike Tarnowski said. “When it comes to the community, it’s great to see people come together, and it’s amazing what can be accomplished when it comes really from the community as a whole. So, congratulations on the efforts and all the work that went into doing that. It’s definitely appreciated.”

Tarnowski, who is also a member of the library’s board of directors, noted the absence of information about cost. He said that when it comes down to a decision, council will need to weigh cost versus service value.

The report testimonials included a 75-year-old resident who said the library is massively important for people in this age bracket because it’s easy to walk to and because it’s become an integral part of their life. At the other end of the spectrum, a village mom said her children love walking to the library after school and on Saturdays. Others talked about the safety of the library, along with all its services, including free access to the internet.

So far, there has been no official talk at the council level about closing the Russell Library, but it has been implied that with the construction of the Russell Recreation Complex, there is a possibility of amalgamation, which could lead to the potential closure of the Russell location. At this time, the question has not been put on the table for council to consider and no decision has been made.

The group can be found on Facebook under Save the Russell Library.