Kentville’s new library & Wade Albert White
|Opening day at the new Kentville library|
Back in 2008 Kentville’s CentreStage Theatre celebrated 25 years of community theatre. Soon after, it purchased the Oddfellows and Rebekahs hall on River Street.
Membership in the two fraternal groups was dwindling, so they agreed to sell. The sales agreement provided the groups with the use of a meeting room in the building for a nominal rent.
That wise decision allowed for the creation of a permanent home for CentreStage and its on-going redevelopment, while allowing the Oddfellows to continue to gather in the same place. What outstanding cooperation.
The recent official opening of the new Kentville Library got me thinking about community assets and why some initiatives take off and garner wide support and others don’t.
Only seven years ago the friends of the Kentville Library thought they were close to having a modern new library on Justice Way off Cornwallis Street. Plans were unveiled and the completion of the project was slated for 2011—the town’s 125th anniversary.
Libraries, it must be said, are housed by municipalities and operated by the Annapolis Valley Regional Library system. The Kentville Public Library Society formed in 2006, registered as a non-profit society with charitable status and with the goal of fundraising for a new building. The group chose a Halifax architectural firm and a site within the town core.
Aiming for a cultural landmark both in form and function, the award-winning firm of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects envisioned a building about 5,000 square feet larger than the cramped 1,800 square foot facility. The design included a multi-purpose centre, including a conference room and space for a café.
Construction was slated to begin as soon as adequate funds were raised to cover the estimated cost of $3 million. Despite the volunteer efforts undertaken by a host of people, financial commitments of two municipalities, the project never moved forward.
In the end what lifted people’s imagination was the prospect of placing the library in a landmark church building. The old library, housed in a former car dealership, closed in August 2016 and the branch set up temporary quarters in part of the former United Church of St. Paul and St. Stephen on Main Street. The deconsecrated church, designed by renowned architect Andrew Cobb, originally opened in 1914.
The renovation of the 4,000-square-foot sanctuary space took longer to complete than expected, but both the owner of the building, John Parsons, and Canning-based architect Lisa Tondino were dedicated to the project. Community consultations shaped the plans for converting the stone church. The altar space became a program room and the pew area was broken up into a senior’s section, a children's area, as well as the regular stacks.
One of the features is a youth section named Killam Corner, after author Margaret Atwood’s grandfather, Dr. Harold Killam. He practiced in the Woodville area in the early 20th century making house visits by horse and buggy and sleigh.
Atwood’s cousin and a Kentville councilor, Lynn Pulsifer, lined up her support. The Friends of the Kentville Library group also raised $100,000 through a ‘This Place Matters’ campaign.
Valley libraries have been thriving in recent years. CAO Anne-Marie Mathieu noted, "Six of our eleven facilities are looking at having major renovations or a completely new build, or a move. It's a really exciting time and I think it speaks to the kind of support the community in the Annapolis Valley has for library services.”
Back in the early 1990s community backing for the conversion of the dilapidated Wolfville train station into the community’s library was strong and sustained, opening during the Town’s Centennial in 1993. It has been a happy conversion and a community focal point for 25 years. It has been so well used in fact that now staff is vocal about a lack of space.
There are other potential assets also being discussed in Wolfville these days: a culinary centre, an addition to Randall House, an enlarged visitor information centre and a new town hall. Wolfville’s former United Church is part of the mix of possibilities, but I don’t see most of these projects moving forward without strong community buy-in. That’s what it takes as Kentville’s recent library experience, and Wolfville’s previous library conversion have demonstrated.
|Author Wade Albert White reading to some fans.|
Reading on opening day in Kentville
You can tell Wade Albert White likes to play with words when he reads from ‘The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes.’ That’s a good thing because White is a writer getting rave reviews from teachers, librarians, and young readers.
His first guide came out in 2016. The Adventurer's Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me) was published in September by Little Brown. The third book in the trilogy will be out next year. Its’ working title is ‘The Adventurer's Guide to Treasure (and How to Steal It)’. He’s been working on revisions.
White’s lead adventurer, Anne, has a lot in common with Anne Shirley of Green Gables fame. This spunky Anne has spent most of her 13 years dreaming of the day she and her best friend get to leave Saint Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children.
The youthful would-be adventurers at the new Kentville Library were quick to joust verbally with White at a recent reading. One tells him the scariest place is the girls’ washroom at school.
White the writer clearly has a fine time tossing riddles at his audience. They had at least four answers for ‘what has an eye, but cannot see?’
He aims his part fantasy, part science fiction books at readers in the middle grades (Grade 3 -8) or ages eight to 12. His books get a high approval rating from adults too.
His first novel was a BookExpo America (BEA) 2016 Middle Grade Buzz Book, and Indies Introduce Summer/Fall 2016 selection. It was included in the 2016 ABC Best Books for Young Readers as well as the Children’s Book Review Best New Kids Books for Preteens and Tweens. And it received a starred listing by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre in the Spring 2017 ‘Best Books for Kids & Teens.’
This past July White, who lives in North Kentville, received the Emerging Author Award from the Atlantic Independent Bookseller's Association.
A proud stay-at-home father with three sons, White is also part-time lecturer in ancient history and languages at the Acadia Divinity School. Born and raised in Yarmouth, he holds a Master of Arts degree in Hebrew Language and Literature from the University of Toronto.
When he isn’t writing, preparing lectures or hanging out with his sons, who range in age from eight to 15, White enjoys studying hand-drawn animation and filmmaking. He indicates he aims to build suspense into every chapter of his books. Each one ends with a cliffhanger to propel his readers on. There’s also humour derived from poking fun at adults.
“I enjoy all of it,” White says of the writing process. “I love writing for kids.”
He does acknowledge, however, that he is percolating an adult novel that might please fans of The DaVinci Code or those, like White, who appreciate Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.
“It’s coming together. I have a rough outline,” White says.
He also dedicates time to an on-line writing group and reviewing other budding writers’ work.
“I know how valuable that can be,” White notes. “You can be too close to your own work.”
Thank goodness he is prepared to lead others into the adventure of seeking successful escapes in reading and writing.