WHEREAS the public libraries of rural Alberta have a unique and special service role in their communities, providing recreational, cultural and information services to residents; AND WHEREAS the public libraries of rural Alberta have made significant increases to the already high service level provided to their communities; AND WHEREAS regional library systems are playing an increasing role supporting new technology and technology-based services used by the public and public library staff; AND WHEREAS the public libraries of rural Alberta are experiencing a severe operational funding shortage, despite strong fundraising efforts; AND WHEREAS the operational funding from the provincial government has not increased sufficiently to match inflation and the provincial per-capita operating grant to regional library systems is now the same as it was in 1992;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta substantially increase the provincial per-capita operating grants for public libraries and regional system boards so as to provide adequate and stable funding that will allow present library service levels to continue and will enable future service levels to increase.
Over the past several years, the provincial government has been committed to moving in the direction of electronic access to information for all Albertans. Public libraries have been one of the primary tools that the province has identified in meeting their goals. Public libraries across Alberta now have the ability for patrons to participate in online borrowing, inter-library loans (done from your own homes), and access to computer terminals at the libraries for Internet users. The result of this technological approach to service, through direction from the province, has been very successful for library users; however, the impact on the libraries is significant. The increase in inter-library loans takes up a significant amount of staff time, particularly in small public libraries, with the processing of books to send to other libraries and the receiving of books from other libraries. In addition, staff time is also spent assisting library users to access the Internet, and in supervising youth who are using the Internet. This staff time was previously spent in attending to operations at the local library. The result is that staff cannot manage to program and address general operations along with the demands generated by the new technology and electronic access.Access to new technology through libraries has been wonderful, but it has caused a crisis. Libraries have always been tight with their budgets, and strong in their fundraising efforts, but this situation may no longer be viable to maintain service levels to meet public expectations. The following charts show the levels of funding provided to public libraries for the past 20 years, with an inflation chart for comparison. As can be seen, provincial funding has addressed special and capital projects, but has been lacking for operating funds, including wages and ongoing expenses.Provincial operating funding per capita and actual1987 1990 1992 1994 1995 1999 2000 2002$4.03 $4.92 $4.29 $4.03 $4.90 $4.76 $4.69 $4.29 $11,581,297 $12,295,791 $12,908,476 $13,001,910 $17,100,000Local Support per capita and actual1990 1995 2000$17.72 $19.54 $20.24$41,685,473 $49,011,403 $56,132,618Inflation has risen by 45.85% since 1987. (source: Bank of Canada)Albertas public libraries have made great advancements in the past decade, and they have done it with severely limited funding. The plan is to become even better in the future through initiatives like SuperNet and further staff training. However, the need for operational funding is extreme in rural libraries. Public libraries have enormous potential for providing a one-stop information service to their communities, either directly or online, but that capacity will depend on the ongoing funding that is provided.Libraries need:An increase in operating grants The per-capita rate for grants to libraries was cut in 1993 and has been frozen since. Libraries in small centres are seeing a decrease in their operating grants. Population loss in rural centres is affecting provincial and local grant funding. Libraries have stretched their dollars as far as possible, working harder and smarter to create incredible efficiencies, all while costs for core services and operations have risen steadily. An increase in the operating grants is needed to accommodate inflation since 1993, networked services and the increasing demands of library users.Ongoing operating costs of the SuperNet The library community applauds the Government of Alberta’s commitment to the SuperNet. Connection costs for the SuperNet are beyond the capacity of most smaller libraries. The opportunities created by this initiative will not be realized without the full participation of all libraries.Access to electronic information resources The Alberta Virtual Library All Albertans need access to quality information to succeed. A searchable electronic collection of credible, reliable information, including full-text references, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias and more, will ensure that Albertans have access to the information they need anywhere, anytime.Placement of integrated library software and computer equipment Libraries must keep up with current technology to serve their users and participate in province-wide networking initiatives. Out-of-date systems no longer meet expectations for fast, user-friendly access to the information owned by the library as well as links to external resources. A librarys catalogue and borrowing software are core to its ability to function. Replacement of this hardware and software requires an enormous investment beyond the capability of most libraries funding.
The AAMDC has two resolutions currently in effect with respect to this issue. Both resolution 9-99F and 6-00F request an increase in the per-capita funding support provided to municipal public libraries and regional library systems, the first (9-99F) asks for $4.50 and $3.54 per capita respectively, and the second (6-00F) $5.78 and $4.59 respectively. The provincial government response to these resolutions indicates that the government recognizes the contribution made to public library service by rural municipalities and they will review the impact of increasing the per capita rate. The review will cover grant policy, the relationship between provincial and municipal funding, as well as the expected levels of library service that would result from any adjustments to the grant rate.