Despite the Keremeos library being one of the busiest in the Okanagan Regional Library board, it will soon offer fewer staffing hours if alternative funding can’t be secured.
Stephanie Hall, executive director of the Okanagan Regional Library explained to Keremeos council at a September 8 meeting that reductions in staffing were necessary to reach a new funding formula.
The new formula means the reduction of about 20 hours from varying positions and will most likely effect the number of hours the library is open.
“This is a busy library. An unusually busy library,” Hall said to council.
In 2014, patrons of the Keremeos library checked out 52,298 pieces of material. About 1,180 people attended programming at the library and 263 children took part in summer reading. Almost 35,000 in person visits occurred during that year.
Hall explained the cost of operating libraries are paid provincially through a formula half based on land values and the other half based on population.
In 2013, a report was prepared by Greg Thornton to determine if money collected in municipalities within the Okanagan Regional Library board were staying within the communities it was collected and not being used to subsidize smaller community libraries.
That report showed that an excess of $28,000 a year was being used to run the Keremeos library.
“We have a responsibility to communities to show that the money they are paying towards programs are being spent locally,” Hall said to council.
Hall said the Okanagan Regional Library board has centralized duties where possible to obtain savings for all libraries.
But Keremeos library is now faced with reducing costs by $28,000 or finding another funding stream.
In 2014, a staffing level plan was created by consulting with staff and unions.
The idea being proposed by the Okanagan Regional Library is to reduce the community librarian hours by six hours, assistant community librarian by 12 hours and four page hours have already been cut.
“Our main goal is to align costs with revenues,” she said.
Council raised concerns that staff would have to work alone at the library if hours were cut.
Hall said for safety concerns as Keremeos has a large transient population, the library will always be run with at least two staff on at the same time.
Other area councils faced with similar situations have decided to fund the library shortfall through their own budgets.
“There are municipalities that are funding more. Princeton is funding more so they can keep all their current staffing levels. While other municipalities are deciding not to,” she said.
Hall said the province has frozen funding for all libraries for several years exacerbating challenges at local board levels.
Residents will get a chance to weigh in on the matter at a public consultation meeting to be scheduled in late September or early October. A date has yet to be set.
“We look forward to hearing what is said at the public consultations,” Mayor Manfred Bauer said.