When you think of a library, it’s not unusual for books to be the first thing to come to mind. Most libraries, after all, were designed for exactly that purpose. In Alfred-Plantagenet, council is rethinking the role of libraries. Earlier this year, council inaugurated five new sports libraries.

The sports libraries are located in Alfred, Curran, Lefaivre, Plantagenet and Wendover. Just don’t expect to find books there. Like traditional libraries, the sports libraries offer free membership for residents, who can peruse the selection and take out items for a prescribed amount of time. During summer and early fall, the sports libraries are stocked with tennis rackets, soccer balls, volleyballs, basketballs and lacrosse equipment.

A fleet of bicycles, including fat bikes will also soon be available for rent at the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail in the park located near County Road 9, in Plantagenet. With their oversized tires and wider rims, fat bikes allow for riding on uneven terrain, including mud, snow and slush. They can be used in all conditions and for all seasons.

Over the next few weeks, the libraries will shift their inventory. Snowshoes, ice skates and toboggans will make their way to the front of the shelves, in time for the arrival of cold weather and snow. Equipment is available for the entire family and comes in a variety of sizes.

After registering to become a member of the sports library, residents can borrow equipment, which can be taken out for seven days. A $1 per day late fee will be applied to any late returns.

Funding for the new sports libraries came from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, through the “Healthy Kids Community Challenge.” The three-year program, which provides $125,000 per year to the township for three consecutive years, is intended to increase physical activity and improve the health of citizens. The program ends in 2017.

Through the Healthy Kids Community Challenge. the township is promoting physical play, drinking water consumption and nutrition. Setting up the sports libraries represented the first phase of the project, which was introduced last year.

Alfred-Plantagenet Township Recreation Director Ken St-Denis refers to the program as a success and he told The Review that the response to the sports libraries has been very positive.

“This project has brought together more than 30 partner organizations who are all sharing the same message. We are here for the kids. We want them to lead healthier lives and we want to give them a better future,” said Ken St-Denis.

St-Denis said that the first phase of the project involves getting families moving and introducing the population to the existing sports facilities that are available to them.

The next phase of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge began this summer, with a focus on making drinking water more easily accessible to residents. In order to accomplish this, the township is installing drinking water fountains in each of the municipal parks and at seven of the eight schools located in Alfred-Plantagenet. St-Denis said council selected a specific type of fountain that makes it easy to refill a water bottle.

“Fountains will be installed outside in some places and inside in others. In some cases we are just making improvement, while others will involve new installations. At the splash pad in Wendover we will also be installing bathrooms and changing areas,” said St-Denis.

As part of the program, reusable water bottles are being distributed to 1,200 primary and secondary students in Alfred-Plantagenet.

Water fountains are expected to be operational in each of the parks by next spring.