Waterloo opens new library

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Hundreds gathered this past Saturday outside of west side Waterloo’s new YMCA building on Fisher-Hallman Road to celebrate the opening of the John M. Harper branch library, despite the cold weather.

Young and old seated and standing listened to brief speeches given by numerous members of the community, including Kitchener-Waterloo MP Peter Braid, K-W MPP Elizabeth Witmer, the city of Waterloo’s mayor, Brenda Halloran as well as members of the Harper family. Contributors to the facility such as the University of Waterloo representative Tim Jackson and Helen Kaluzny, Library Board Chairperson, spoke as well.

Tim Anderson, chief administration officer for the City of Waterloo and master of ceremonies for the afternoon started the unveiling by saying , “It was many of council’s vision, and their perseverance that brought us to today.”

He continued by saying, “How can I reflect what this building is all about? For me it was punctuated by three P’s: partnership, perseverance and public engagement — it’s really all about the public.”

Braid took the stand and after thanking many of the volunteers commented that he was very proud to be in attendance that day. “This brand new building,” he said, “Will provide waterloo residents with a state of the art learning and resource centre as well as a fully equipped exercise facility, both conveniently located under the same green roof.”

However, though the focus of the ceremony was on the new building itself, many of the speakers dedicated portions of their speeches to the memory of Jack M. Harper, to whom the library was dedicated. “[He was] a prominent business person, philanthropist and community leader,” Braid said to the crowd. “And it is fitting that this library bears his name in commemoration of his many significant contributions to our community.”

Jack Harper was a Waterloo resident who firmly believed in giving back to the community. His son, Jim Harper, seemed to well up as he passed on his father’s message to the audience; “Community service was the rent you paid for the space you occupied.”

“He lived this philosophy in a quiet way,” Jim continued, “To help make our community a better place to live in, and this complex is an example [of that] and we are very honoured to be a part of it.”

This 21,000 square foot library took approximately six years to complete after land issues and building designs had been finalized— as well as a myriad of other attributes that go into creating a brand new structure.

After the yellow ceremonial ribbon had been cut, people excitedly made their way through the doors of the new library and immediately started to search through the books, magazines, DVDs and newspapers filling the shelves. The grand opening was also celebrated with face painting, refreshments, origami lessons as well as a live cello player.

“We’re thrilled and impressed — though not totally surprised at the turnout,” said Laurie Clarke, CEO of the YMCA library.

“People have been peeking through the windows for a while now. We had to cover them with paper to make it more of a surprise,” she laughed.

Many of the people in attendance commented on the beauty of the building, the openness created through the windows and natural lighting, and, as architect Stephen Tepoll said, “The green roof that mirrors the rolling hills of the landscape and … the way the library will have a permanent view of the Laurel Creek reservoir.” This building is also said to be easily accessible by bus, car or bike.
“I think that a library is the cornerstone of every community,” Clarke said. “It offers so much to everyone — it’s the great equalizer and it allows people to borrow free of charge.”

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” Halloran said. “We’re so proud to be a part of all this …of making things happen for our community.”


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