Column: Have your say on library funding

Provincial funding for libraries has been stagnant for 10 years

Submitted by Cari Lynn Gawletz, Director of the Grand Forks & District Public Library

Did you know that 99 per cent of British Columbians have access to a local public library? BC has 71 public libraries with 241 service locations. More than 15.6 million items are available to borrow across the province, and in 2017, 52 million items were checked out. In the same year, we shared over 135,000 items between libraries and offered 74,000 programs to the public (which 1.74 million people attended!). We have 3,600 computers available for public use across the province. At our own little library in 2018, we had over 72,000 visitors, offered 504 programs to 5378 attendees and our public WiFi was used 25,500 times.

Research has shown that public libraries offer an incredible return on investment. The Vancouver Island Regional Library conducted a study on their services in 2016 and found that for every $1 put into the library, patrons received $5.36 in value. Other Canadian public libraries have found the same: value for each dollar put into the local public library offers from $4-$7 in returns. Public libraries are incredible resources to their local communities, offering a plethora of services to all sections of the population to offer an overall improvement in quality of life for the community.

However, though we are excellent at turning your dollar into five, we still need increased funding to operate and sustain the services you know and love. Unfortunately, public libraries in B.C. have been facing funding hardships from the Province for going on a decade now. The provincial government is responsible for the oversight of public libraries and maintains the Library Act, which is a document outlining the laws that govern how we operate, how we can fund ourselves, etc. In 2008, provincial funding for public libraries in B.C. was $17.7 million; in 2009, that funding was slashed by more than 20% to $14 million, where it has been frozen ever since. In order to keep the library’s lights on and the doors open, local governments have had to pick up the slack by making up for the provincial shortfall through property taxes, and libraries have had to make sacrifices including staff hours, book budgets, technology upgrades, building maintenance, and more. You’ll recall that we had to fundraise ourselves for the renovation of our public washroom facilities, despite them being woefully inadequate for years, because the public funding just isn’t there for us to maintain both our services and our building.

If you are convinced that the province of B.C. should indeed be offering, at the very least, a cost of living increase to public libraries, there are ways that you can help right now. The government is currently undergoing a 2020 budget consultation process and is seeking public input. The BC Public Library Partners, which includes several umbrella organizations that are either associations of B.C. public libraries or service providers to those libraries, have devised a game plan to get library funding up to “20 million in 2020” (catchy, right?). Visit https://tinyurl.com/y3s9jcoa to find out what you can do to help!

Important information:

Tuesday, June 25: registration opens for Summer Reading Club

Kids ages 5-14 can sign up for our most popular program of the year! We are moving to an online sign-up platform, so visit http://gfdpl.eventbrite.com to register. You may also sign up by visiting or calling Daisy at the library. Space is limited, so sign up early to ensure a spot!

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