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Libraries keep hope funding will be maintained

Wait continues for provincial budget
File photo by ADVOCATE STAFF Shelley Ross, CEO of Red Deer Public Library, said MLAs know the importance of Alberta’s libraries.

Libraries aren’t taking a delay in receiving their full annual funding from the province as a sign they’ll get less money.

Recently, central Alberta libraries received 50 per cent of their annual government funding.

“The fact that we’re currently getting 50 per cent of the money is an indication, I think, that the provincial government still recognizes the importance of libraries and is willing to provide us some funding, even though they don’t have a budget,” said Ron Sheppard, director of the Parkland Regional Library System based in Lacombe.

“There is no cut in provincial funding that we’re aware of. We’re anticipating stable funding, even if we’re not getting an increase.

“But we won’t know until the budget is actually pronounced.”

He said Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu has made it clear in tweets that recent funding should not be interpreted as a cut.

When first elected in 2015, the NDP initially provided 75 per cent of the grant, then increased the grant as the Progressive Conservatives had promised.

Sheppard said the government realizes libraries, particularly small rural ones, depend on those operating grants.

“Should there be a cut in funding from the government of Alberta, it will have its biggest impact on rural Alberta, where it would be quite serious for many small libraries,” Sheppard said.

Carley Binder, manager at Blackfalds Public Library, said her facility would not be impacted to the same extent as smaller libraries, if cuts were made.

“We’re fortunate. We’re supported by the town, so we don’t rely on it to pay utility bills. For us, it would be like one staffing position and being open extra hours during the week,” Binder said.

But for libraries in places such as Elnora or Delburne, grants are important to keep the buildings open and provide access to internet service in rural areas where it’s unreliable.

Shelley Ross, CEO of Red Deer Public Library, agreed there’s no reason to believe a funding cut is on the way.

“I think our MLAs use the library, and their families use the library, and they know the value of the library to the community and the way that the library levels the playing field for everybody.

“It’s the one way the province can put money out across the whole province and know that it’s not just one group that benefits, but the whole community. Each community, even in the very smallest of places,” Ross said.

Provincial funding accounts for 10 per cent of Red Deer library’s budget, which is not a trivial amount.

Most of the library’s budget comes from the City of Red Deer, she said.

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