Politicians dust-off library funding discussions

If funding isn’t secured from somewhere a staff member will lose their job at the Keremeos Library.

The province’s commitment to take a closer look at library funding might be too little too late for the Keremeos Library.

The province has committed to look at the current funding model to libraries, but it’s unknown how long that review might take.

“It’s a positive. Hopefully it won’t take too long,” Bauer said during Monday night’s council meeting when he referenced a letter received from Rob Fleming, Minister of Education.

In September, area politicians met with Fleming and ministry staff who oversee libraries in the province. The letter was to assure politicians the province plans to review funding.

“The Ministry recognizes the cost of delivering library services has increased with changing technology and other demands. As such, I can confirm a provincial funding framework is being reviewed within the context of the vision and strategic plan: Inspiring Libraries Connecting Communities. It is expected this review will give stronger consideration to funding issues in rural communities,” the letter signed by Fleming stated.

Over the last two years, Areas B and G and Keremeos have kicked in additional monies to keep service levels at the Keremeos library similar since a strategic review was completed at the Okanagan Regional Library board. Through that review it was determined that money collected from larger communities such as Kelowna and West Kelowna were being re-routed to help offset costs at smaller rural libraries including Keremeos, Princeton and others.

Although Areas B, G and Keremeos came up with $16,000 needed to keep the Keremeos Library open five days a week for 2017, there was a reduction in staffing hours.

None of the three local municipalities have committed to giving the ORL money in 2018 to ensure service remains the same as it is now. Without funding the library would lose a position and be open only four days a week.

Bauer, Area B director George Bush and Area G director Elef Christensen all told the Review discussions are ongoing about what to do about the library funding.

“I can’t make a commitment yet. I just haven’t decided. I’m sitting on the fence right now. I know there’s a lot of people in the public that wants it and there’s a lot of people in the public that feel like their tax dollars are already going to the library and they shouldn’t have to pay more,” Bush said.

Christensen said he is awaiting the results of a community survey he sent out to residents in Area G before making any firm comments on the library funding situation.

He did say at this point he guessed that the local politicians would stand by the decision made in 2017 that that would be last year they would come up with additional funding for the library.

“I don’t think the funding is due before early in the spring next year. I’m sure a lot of things could happen before now and then,” he said. “It’s too early to make any decisions.”

Bauer said all of Keremeos council would have to weigh-in on whether to proceed with funding.

“Discussions are ongoing and it’s just too early to say what will happen,” he said.

Michal Utko, marketing and communications manger for the ORL said news the province is looking into library funding is positive.

“We are excited and hopeful that the funding model will be adjusted to better represent the needs of smaller community libraries across B.C. Libraries in rural BC communities play an even more critical role than in urban centres due to the limited educational assets available. Libraries represent an important component of a rural community’s economic and social gathering resources,” he said. “Adequate funding for rural libraries would help create equal learning opportunities across all provincial jurisdictions.”

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