Over 100 people showed up to a public open house hosted by the County of Brant Public Library Board at the Brant Sports Complex on Monday, February 6, 2023.
The presentation looked at the journey that led to this moment, and the current plans to build a new public library in Paris.
Serving as a main branch that would service the County of Brant, the current proposal is to repair and restore the Paris Old Town Hall, currently known as the Bawcutt Centre.
Built in 1854, it is one the oldest Gothic Revival-style buildings in Canada. After passing through several hands, the building was designated as a national historic site in October, 2020.
As attendees arrived, they could view information about the centre’s history, view current plans and artist renderings of the future development.
Fred Gladding, Chair of the County of Brant Public Library Board, gave some background behind the boards job and commitment to the community.
“We’re a group of community volunteers appointed by council with the support of the Mayor and a couple of other councillors,” Gladding said. “We provide governance for the library service in our community and our job is to do our best to make sure that the citizens of the County of Brant have the very best library service possible.”
As time has gone on, the board decided in 2014 that it was time to look at expanding.
“It’s time for us to have a better facility so that we can offer the aspects of 21st century library services. It’s a little bit different then the library service that we remember in our earlier days,” he said.
Marilyn Sewell, Vice-Chair of the County of Brant Public Library Board, took those in attendance through a timeline of how the board got to this moment.
The board decided nearly nine years ago that they would investigate the current space of the Paris library, it soon found that there was a need for a more diverse space.
Over the past several years, the board has acquired consultation and advisory for several buildings owned by the County, however during the pandemic, the County suggested the Bawcutt Centre.
Sewell spoke about the potential that the County saw.
“The Bawcutt Centre needs work done, and we need to build a new library, so what about putting those two together and seeing what we could come up with?” she continued.
Despite living in a digital world, the need for a public library space for the community is still there.
“The library is more than books,” said Sewell. “It’s a maker space, it’s a community hub, it’s a place where people can feel safe. It’s free, it’s accessible, it is a spot where anybody and everybody belongs and should feel welcome and should feel that they have a place to be in this space – It’s a cultural anchor.”
David Premi, Founder and CEO of DPAI Architecture Inc. in Hamilton, walked those in attendance through the current building plans and possible material aspects.
The current plan is to keep the original heritage building built in 1854 and remove the 1960’s additions made by the Mary Maxim company.
An addition to the building will be added, allowing the historic parts to shine as they once did.
Design elements for the site include restoring the original opera hall, adequate parking, a landscape forecourt, accessibility, open community spaces, study rooms, technology labs and sustainable design elements.
A Q&A was held after the presentation and attendees had the opportunity to comment and ask questions to those involved.
The board would like to cut a ribbon by late 2025, or early 2026, but are aware there could be setbacks.
All of the images from the night, as well as a recording of the full presentation is available for a month at:
The board encourages the public to leave any feedback or questions about the project as it moves forward.