Friday March 24, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated March 27, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
Public libraries in BC are getting a boost of $45 million from the provincial government’s 2022-2023 budget surplus.
Funds in the surplus that aren’t spent by March 31 will roll into paying down the provincial debt.
BC Budget 2023 back on February 28 showed $45 million from the surplus for public libraries. Today that figure was maintained (unlike other surplus supports that were increased upon delivery, such as food security that was bumped from $160 million to $200 million).
“The new funding is intended to give libraries the flexibility to address key priorities right away and to plan for future needs,” a Ministry spokesperson said.
Part of a broader use of the surplus:
Today’s announcement was one of many surplus funding announcements over the past couple of months, including for BC Ferries, 911 improvements, TransLink, food security, and more. Every municipality in BC (all 188 of them) got additional one-time funding.
The 2022-2023 surplus is being called a once-in-a-generation funding opportunity.
The current provincial annual operating funding for BC Libraries is $14 million, so the $45 million one-time boost is quite a top up.
The BC Govt $45 million top-up to BC libraries is about three times the annual $14 million annual operating subsidy. It will be interesting to see how each board/region applies this windfall… whether for one-time larger projects or spread it over three years for greater operating stability.
Minister’s announcement in Cumberland:
Today’s announcement was made by Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang and Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Ray Leonard at the Cumberland Branch of Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) in Cumberland on Vancouver Island. Also attending were library board members and staff.
Kang said the funds are for libraries to “keep pace with changing needs”.
VIRL Board Chair Erin Hemmens also attended at the announcement. She said that VIRL represents a board of 38 library trustees (elected representatives from municipalities around Vancouver Island, other than the ones within the Greater Victoria Public Library system). She highlighted how libraries provide “an incredible return on investment” including “learning opportunities and safe spaces”.
The funds will be issued to library boards, to administer as they see fit to the 71 public libraries and organizations around BC, said Minister Kang, who added there will be accountability.
Those 71 library organizations in total operate 250 library branches around BC.
Four key areas for use of the funds were outlined by Kang:
- Library local needs, including book acquisition, hours of operation, and programs
- Expanding digital collections, toward enhancing the digital collective
- Technical infrastructure, programs (including the summer reading program), and inter-library services
- Joint funding to support the six library federations in their regional service delivery and projects
The importance of libraries as community gathering spaces and areas for welcoming support to residents, job seekers and newcomers was emphasized.
In 2021, people used digital resources from BC public libraries almost 16 million times, a 47% increase over 2019 levels; this was largely driven by circumstances of the COVID pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
Additional library supports:
- The BC Government also supports:
- BC Summer Reading Club ($65,000)
- Vancouver Sun’s annual Raise-a-Reader campaign and programs ($500,000)
- Literacy Coordination and supports through Decoda Literacy Solutions ($2.185 million)
In 2020, government invested an additional $3 million for digital services, online collections, public computer access and internet connectivity.
In Spring 2022, government provided $8 million to help libraries retroactively cover pandemic costs, meet the increased demand for digital content, upgrade physical spaces, deliver computer and virtual technology training.
Top book titles for Vancouver Island readers (Feb 22, 2023)
Big crowd for long-awaited Sooke Library opening (June 12, 2022)
VIRL librarians pause their strike action (Apr 12, 2022)
More than books at new Esquimalt Library (Mar 30, 2022)
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke is a long-time observer of the socioeconomics of Canadian society.
Ms Brooke launched MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010) then expanded to weekly regional news with Sooke Voice News (2011-2013) and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020), before expanding to Vancouver Island, BC and national news attentiveness with Island Social Trends in mid-2020.
Mary P Brooke holds a B.Sc. in health science with majors in community education and sociology, as well as a university certificate in Public Relations, and an industry-sector digital marketing certificate. She has been a lifelong entrepreneur and publications creator. Her company Brookeline Publishing House Inc was launched in Victoria in 1995, and was one of the first companies in Canada to offer online training and web hosting. She has hosted on radio. She now participates in BC Legislative Press Gallery reporting.
Mary Brooke ran for school trustee in 2022 as a community service.