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Remember This? The East Branch public library

It closed in December after 50 years service
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SSMPL churchill branch library
The former East (Churchill) Branch public library is pictured at Churchill Plaza in this Sault Ste. Marie Public Library archive photo. The branch first opened in 1966. It closed on Dec. 9, 2016.

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

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Remember This . . . Churchill Branch Library

As the population of Sault Ste. Marie grew, new housing developments were built and the need for library facilities in the east end became necessary. As a result, a new library branch opened in the Churchill Plaza, then owned by Toronto based Camston Limited, in March, 1966, which would be known as the East Branch Library. 

It was the first branch expansion since the opening of the West Branch (Steelton) in 1919.  This new library was 751 square feet in size and was intended to be a circulating library only, with no reading room or reference services. It was only to function as a neighbourhood library with a collection of 1,500 books for all ages on the shelves.

East Branch Library was the only library board facility in a commercially rented location, as the Main (Centennial) Library, Steelton and later the Korah Branch libraries were in municipally-owned buildings. By 1981, the library was outgrowing its original space and when additional room, adjacent to the existing library, became available within the Churchill Plaza, the East Branch expanded to approximately 1,531 square feet.  

During the mid-1990s the name of the library was changed from East Branch to Churchill Branch.  Once again, a new larger space opened up within the plaza and the Churchill Branch moved in 1999.

The new location faced Lake Street, with the advantage of now having parking spaces right in front of the library. Since 1981, the size of the collection had increased by almost 30 per cent and registered patrons had increased by 52 per cent.   The new space would alleviate the crowded conditions and lack of adequate space for new services such as public Internet stations.  It also provided study space for students and a new reading area.

In 2014, due to increasing costs associated with the operation of this branch, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library commissioned the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre to perform a location analysis for the east end site.

According to the commissioned report 'The Sault Ste. Marie Public Library was interested in finding suitable locations for a public library in the east end of the city.  A suitability model was developed based on the following criteria: proximity to bus routes and bus stops, proximity to centre point of existing east end library patrons, socio-economic factors, city-owned facilities, and parcels zoned commercial/institutional.' 

After exploring a number of possible sites, it was decided not to pursue moving the library at that time.  

In recent years, the closing of a nearby high school and some elementary schools in the area contributed to the need for change within the library system. Despite neighbourhood resistance, the decision was made by City Council to close the Churchill Branch Library.   The library closed its doors for good on December 9, 2016 after serving the neighbourhood for 50 years.  According to a Sault Star article from December 1, 2016, “the Churchill branch closure will result in about a $379,000 savings, of which the money will be diverted to capital needs to improve and update the aging Centennial branch.”

Although the Churchill Branch Library no longer exists, the Centennial Library and the Korah Branch Library remain committed to providing a friendly and welcoming environment to all Sault Ste. Marie residents. 

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Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at www.ssmpl.ca and look for more Remember This? columns here