WHEREAS public libraries and regional library systems are essential in providing Albertans with low-cost access to knowledge and information needed for success in education, business and life; and
WHEREAS residents of rural communities expect and deserve equitable access to high-quality, essential services and facilities such as public libraries; and
WHEREAS local public libraries and regional library systems are key implementers of the Alberta Government’s Collaborative Library Policy and Alberta Public Library Network Policy; and
WHEREAS provincial funding has not kept pace with increasing costs and number of residents; and
WHEREAS many municipalities have entered into funding agreements to help local libraries achieve their goals and address provincial funding shortfalls;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Government of Alberta increase its funding for public libraries and regional library systems.
Provincial public library funding has remained flat at $32,500,000 since 2009.
In the 2015-16 provincial budget an additional $3.5 million of funding (roughly a 10.7% increase over the previous budget year), was allocated. By contrast, Alberta’s population and the consumer price index rose roughly 13% and 10% respectively during the same period. In short, provincial grants to libraries have not kept pace with demand.
Operating cost funding shortfalls in local area libraries have resulted in difficult budgeting decisions including the consideration of reduced hours and services.
If public libraries are to continue to serve their communities and function as one network in accordance with provincial policy, provincial public library funding must keep pace with costs and the ever growing and diversifying population of Alberta.
14-14F: Provincial Funding for Municipal Public Libraries and Regional Library Systems
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Government of Alberta to review its funding formula for public libraries and regional library systems and develop a consistent approach and longer term plan to allow for increased funding that reflects current census information regarding populations in Alberta and multi-year planning, to ensure consistent delivery of library services for all Albertans in all regions.
DEVELOPMENTS: The Government of Alberta has provided no indication that a review of the funding formula for libraries is forthcoming. However, the 2015-16 provincial budget allocated a $3.5million increase in library funding over the previous budget year, which according to the Library Association of Alberta, indicates a per capita increase of 10 cents and a funding measure based on 2014, rather than 2010 population figures. Although it is unclear if this funding increase is accompanied by a multi-year plan for the further development of Alberta’s public libraries, the AAMDC is encouraged by this increase in funding, and thus deems this resolution as Accepted in Part. The AAMDC will continue to monitor this resolution to ensure rural municipalities are adequately served by Alberta’s public library network.
Municipal Affairs: Our government increased funding to public library operating grants by $3.5 million in 2015/16.
For Budget 2016, funds were reallocated internally to calculate the provincial per capita operating grants at 2015 population levels. In 2016/17, Alberta Municipal Affairs (MA) will be providing nearly $700,000 to support service provision to Indigenous on-reserve and on?settlement populations at existing public libraries. This funding will be provided to the boards of six regional library systems, as well as the Calgary Public Library, the Edmonton Public Library and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
MA knows that regional library systems play a key role in delivering services to rural communities and helping ensure equitability of services. The ministry provides over $8 million annually in direct operating grants to Alberta’s seven regional library systems.
MA has also been undertaking consultation with the public library community on funding, especially in regard to the sustainability of regional library systems. In January 2016, key public library stakeholders met with MA and discussed the challenges faced by rural and regional libraries, including funding needs. A working group has been formed and recommendations are expected to come forward in November 2016.
In addition to providing direct operating funding that local library boards use to meet specific community needs, MA provides funding for the Provincial Network of Public Library Service. This includes nearly $3 million per year to support SuperNet connectivity for all public libraries, approximately $1 million per year in support of interlibrary loan delivery, and approximately $1 million in e-content for resources such as online TV, movies, e-books, language learning software and international newspapers.
The Government of Alberta response indicates an increase to library funding in the previous budget year as well as a smaller increase in the 2016/17 budget targeted to improve library services to on-reserve and on-settlement Indigenous populations at public libraries. While this contribution is appreciated, its specific nature may not address broader operating challenges faced by rural libraries and regional library systems.
The Budget 2017 Capital Plan includes $11 million dedicated to enhance Alberta’s regional library system. This capital contribution was unfortunately not repeated in the 2018 Alberta budget, although operational support for libraries was maintained at a similar level to 2017. As a result of the 2017 capital funding influx, this resolution is assigned a status of Accepted and will continue to be reviewed in future provincial budgets.