More local libraries speak up about the importance of provincial funding

Susan Thompson
Express Staff

Libraries across the province have been advocating to receive their full funding in the upcoming provincial budget after news broke that they would only be given fifty percent of their usual funding until the budget is released.

“We were informed by the Public Library Services Branch on July 30th that the 50 per cent provincial operating grants will be given out now and that the remaining grant funding will be given after the provincial budget is approved, there is no indication to date that our funding has been cut. This does happen when the new government has not yet tabled its budget,” says Linda Chmilar, manager at the Grimshaw Municipal Library.

The previous NDP government provided 75 per cent of funding before their budget was released.

However, with the UCP government MLAs taking pay cuts, and a blue ribbon panel appointed to review the province’s expenditures but not its revenues, concerns are being raised across the province that cuts are coming in the budget.

As the Peace River library argued in an article in the Express last week, local libraries have become community hubs that are providing far more services than simply lending out books, and make good use of their funding.

“Our library has become the business centre of Grimshaw,” says Library Manager Linda Chmilar.

“People know they can come here for help with resumes, preparing for job interviews, we’ve set up Skype job interviews for many people, we proctor exams, for adults as well as students. Our rural patrons come here to download, their internet is just not capable to handle that. They come here to print, fax and scan.”

“We are not only a public library but the school library for both the Holy Family School Division and the Peace River School Division,” she points out.

The Grimshaw Municipal Library has installed people counters at both their public door and school door to accurately measure community use of the facility.

Last year the library had over thirty two thousand visits, with ten thousand of those from school students.

“Those are great numbers for a community of 2700,” Chmilar says.

Meanwhile, the Falher library board prefers to look on the bright side of the funding delay.

“This is actually a good news story – the provincial government has recognized the importance of the Provincial Library Operating Grant to support ongoing library operations,” says Jackie Hockey, Chair of the Falher Regional Intermunicipal Library Board.

“Our understanding is that 50% of the 2019-2020 operating grant approved by the previous government to libraries will be advanced to us, before the 2019-2020 budget is finalized and approved by the new government this fall.”

Hockey says the library depends on government funding and the board is hopeful that library funding will remain a key government priority.

“For 2019, the Provincial Library Operating Grant makes up 29% of our operations budget,” Hockey says.

The Falher library also provides an important service to the community.

“Our library is a unique and valuable public resource that provides support to the residents of our municipalities – the Town of Falher and Village of Donnelly, and surrounding region, in both French and English. People of all ages and backgrounds gather at the Falher Library/Bibliothèque Dentinger to learn, share, support their neighbours, and to celebrate their history and who they now are, as well as what they want to become,” says Hockey.

The UCP government’s blue ribbon panel has finished reviewing the province’s finances, but the information has not yet been released to the public.

The provincial budget is expected to be announced after the upcoming federal election.

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