WHEREAS regional library systems exist to ensure Albertans have equitable access to library services and contribute to the well-being of the Province of Alberta; and
WHEREAS Alberta public libraries and regional library systems cooperate with and help implement the Alberta Government’s Collaborative Library Policy and Alberta Public Library Network Policy; and
WHEREAS the role of regional library systems has changed due to their new responsibilities as nodes within a provincial network, allowing for more centralized delivery as well as due to the constantly evolving formats of library materials; and
WHEREAS the extra funding allocated to digital resources for public libraries is much appreciated, it does not address the other needs regarding the changing roles and responsibilities of regional library systems; and
WHEREAS public libraries play a vital role in creating strong communities and serve as a dynamic component of the education system and provide a universal and low-cost point of access to information for Albertans of all ages, in all regions of the province, who are pursuing knowledge and information needed for success in education, business and personal projects; and
WHEREAS the funding for public libraries in the provincial budget has stayed approximately $32,500,000 for six (6) years now, while there has been a 9.47% inflation since 2009 (according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator); and
WHEREAS funding for public libraries is on a flat provincial budget using out-of-date federal census; and
WHEREAS Alberta has a continuing and increasing influx of residents with 57.1% of Albertans using the public library network; and
WHEREAS municipalities have had to increase funding disproportionately to help libraries achieve their goals;
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.
Regional library systems are currently funded on a per capita basis which, in 2014, is still using 2010 population figures.
In addition, the per capita funding formula is further imbalanced in that it benefits regional library systems located in larger communities and regions, while regional library systems located in smaller communities and regions still face the same financial challenges, but with less funding support. Overall, the per capita based funding mode is inadequate in addressing the funding needs of each regional library system.
In addition, funding allocated to public libraries in the provincial budget has stayed at approximately $32,500.000 for six (6) years now, while there has been a 9.47% inflation since 2009 (according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator).
It is vital to ensure that provincial public library operating grants keep up with inflation, as well as assist with the new service priorities of the ever growing and diversifying population of Alberta, if all library nodes are to work effectively as one network to serve the province and deliver excellent library services.
Despite flat provincial budgets, the need for increased library services and materials in southeastern Alberta is clearly evident, based on five years of growth in library services.
From 2009 to 2013 in the Shortgrass Library System:
Public Library Services Branch (Alberta Municipal Affairs) recently introduced a new Provincial Network Policy, which has changed the role of regional library systems by requiring participation in the provincial network of library services and resource sharing.
With populations fluctuating and funding remaining unpredictable from year to year, it is difficult to engage in any long term financial planning, which threatens the sustainability of library systems and thereby endangers the provision of and access to valuable programs and services available to all Albertans.
Although there are increasing numbers of public library network users and increased services required by the public library network, it has become very evident to municipalities and Albertans that funding for public libraries and regional library systems has been seriously underfunded, forcing municipalities, on limited budgets, to provide funding support to the public libraries and regional library systems in their regions.
Although municipalities are also supporting regional library systems, the library systems are unable to keep up with the costs associated with the capital and operating costs. When factoring in the population increase over the last six years, the overall provincial per capita funding for library services has declined.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Municipal Affairs: A number of stakeholders have raised concerns recently about the provincial library operating grant. While the operating grants are currently based on 2010 population due to budget limitations, Municipal Affairs has increased support to public libraries by investing $4 million in e-content, interlibrary loan delivery, and resource-sharing each year since 2010.
The ministry will continue to work on developing the public library network to ensure that all Albertans have access to the resources they require through their public libraries.
Treasury Board and Finance: Alberta Treasury Board and Finance will continue to work in partnership with our government colleagues and stakeholders to determine sustainable funding solutions. Requests for additional funding, at this time, will not be approved.
The Government of Alberta’s recent response to resolution 11-16S 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, and although it is unclear if these funding increases will be accompanied by a multi-year plan for the further development of Alberta’s public libraries, the AAMDC is encouraged by this increase in funding. This resolution holds the status of as Accepted in Part, and the AAMDC will continue to monitor this resolution to ensure rural municipalities are adequately served by Alberta’s public library network.