Cash comes at busy time for libraries

Public libraries in Alberta have received a boost in funding from the provincial government at a time when the recession is causing many of them to see an increased demand for their services.

Public libraries in Alberta have received a boost in funding from the provincial government at a time when the recession is causing many of them to see an increased demand for their services.

The new funding from the province means close to $135,000 more for Red Deer Public Library and a little over $385,000 more in funding for Parkland Regional Library.

It’s part of $32 million in funding budgeted for public libraries across the province in 2009 — a $9-million increase or what amounts to a 39 per cent boost in funding over last year.

Red Deer Public Library still receives most of its funding from the City of Red Deer, with the municipality contributing close to $3 million a year.

The downturn has caused a huge spike in library use, according to Ron Sheppard, director of Parkland Regional Library.

The library system serves just under 200,000 people in Central Alberta, covering an area as far north as Camrose, south to Water Valley, east to Provost and west to Nordegg.

Sheppard said many people are going to libraries for entertainment, for programming and to use computers for job searches or to learn how to write up a resume.

“If (libraries are) used a lot in good times they’re used even more when the economy is not so good,” Sheppard said.

More people are dropping by Red Deer Public Library as well.

Dean Frey, director of Red Deer Public Library, said March was one of the library’s busiest months.

“I don’t know that Red Deer generally is doing that badly economically. We’ve certainly noticed more people in the library. It could be because of economic factors,” Frey said. He also believes the high-quality programming and marketing the library has been doing has helped to draw people in.

Frey said the money is extremely well timed because with the renovated Dawe branch set to open in the spring of 2010, the new money will enable the library to have the staffing and collection to meet those new needs. He said it will also allow them to keep up with the demand at the downtown branch.

Frey said the increase in usage can take a toll on the facilities and collections. He said library staff want to make sure the shelves aren’t empty and that there are enough public Internet stations available for customers.

Sheppard said Parkland Regional Library will use the money to enhance services by hiring extra staff, increasing the speed the cataloguing department gets items onto the shelves and offering more online and technology services with more options available directly from home online, such as databases, e-books, audio books.

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