This Place Matters Alum Update: Friends of the Kentville Library

The Town of Kentville, NS, has a lot to be proud of. This past Saturday, they celebrated the opening of their new local library in the former United Church. And, what is most poignant about this moment is that it marks the culmination of an exciting journey that saw this small, but mighty community win a national crowdfunding competition and install their once abandoned library in a new, old home.

A year and a half ago, Kentville resident Sarah Leslie found herself taking on the role as Chair of the Friends of the Kentville Library. Her first task: fundraising for a new space for the community library which had moved from a former car dealership to the cramped quarters of the basement at the former United Church Sunday School rooms on the main street. With little money in the bank to take on a new project, the options were limited. But, the Friends of the Kentville Library volunteers, through consultation with the community, had an exciting vision for how they could transform the main space of the United Church and a desire to give the community, especially the young residents of Kentville, the dynamic space they deserved.

When the THIS PLACE MATTERS crowdfunding competition came along in fall 2016, they seized the opportunity to kickstart an ambitious fundraising campaign. “So many things we could have never dreamed of came true because of THIS PLACE MATTERS,” says Sarah. The competition gave the community a clear goal, and the team used that to unlock donations from local businesses and philanthropists. Their success in crowdfunding gave them a powerful story to tell new donors, and momentum grew. At the close of the competition, Kentville took home the $40,000 first place prize and raised an additional $60,000. They were ecstatic!

With their new funding in place, working in partnership with the Town of Kentville, Parsons Investments Limited, the owners of the building, Annapolis Valley Regional Libraries, and Lisa Tondino of Houdini Design Architects, they began the process of adapting the sanctuary and choir loft into their library. The Kentville team designed a children’s space and teen area that was whimsical and interactive, complete with new computers, a custom bench that kids can crawl through, iPads and a unique interactive bubble tube that is specially designed for children on the autism spectrum. Sarah explains that the Friends group strives to make the new library “inclusive in a truly authentic way.”  The Teen Area was named ‘The Killam Corner’ to recognize the crowdfunding efforts of Canadian author Margaret Atwood, whose mother was a Killam and grew up in the area.

In the last week, the Friends of Kentville Library have celebrated all that they have accomplished at both their donor event and the Grand Opening. “It was so much fun to see people’s reactions. They gasped and didn’t know where to look first,” Sarah recalls. The reaction from former parishioners was especially emotional. “The owner and the architects were sensitive to the building,” says Sarah. A visitor can still enjoy the beauty of the space, while perusing books or participating in an activity. The Kentville Library is an excellent example of how a place of faith can be regenerated to continue to serve community needs.

The Kentville Library is proof of what can be accomplished when a community comes together with a vision, stays the course and braves new ways of raising of funds. And, what’s more, Sarah explains “We did it on small town terms – with warmth and community at heart.”

Watch Kentville celebrate their THIS PLACE MATTERS win here.

THIS PLACE MATTERS is the National Trust for Canada’s innovative crowdfunding competition that brings community members together to raise funds and awareness to save and renew beloved historic places, while generating community pride. Learn more here