Province offers libraries another 'one-time' payment

Cash-strapped libraries are going to get a second 'one-time' budget increase in the upcoming provincial budget, according to the deputy minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage.

Library boards to receive $474,000 to 'alleviate some of the pressures' they are facing

A sign promotes a fundrasier at the library in Amherst. Libraries across the province are facing difficult decisions without a funding increase. (CBC)

Libraries struggling to keep their doors open are going to get another "one-time," three per cent budget increase, according to Tracey Taweel, the deputy minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage.

The top bureaucrat revealed the budget top-up to members of the Nova Scotia Legislature's public accounts committee on Wednesday.

"I can tell you and your colleague that libraries will be receiving an additional sum of money within this fiscal year — $474,000," Taweel told NDP MLA Lisa Roberts.

Roberts had asked a question about a lack of adequate funding that forced the Cumberland County Library System to cut back hours. 

"They received word of that yesterday," said Taweel. "That will alleviate some of the pressures and hopefully will alleviate the pressure that Cumberland particularly were facing."

Funding formula to be updated

The provincial government wants to change the current per capita funding model, which has capped operating budgets at $14.4 million for "a number of years." 

"With the changing demographics and how people moving around it's creating challenges for them to fund on a per capita basis so we need to look at what are the core services that libraries are providing and how do we properly fund those core services," she told reporters after the meeting.

Tracey Taweel, the deputy minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, addressed the public accounts committee at the legislature on Wednesday. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Taweel said those discussions are ongoing and should result in a new formula "sometime later this year."

The $474,000 is meant to help libraries bridge their finances until that new formula is in place.

Libraries received a similar "one-time" funding boost during the last budget year.

Chief librarian relieved

Denise Corey, chief librarian at Cumberland Public Libraries, said news her library would be getting the same amount of money as it did last year lifts a huge weight off her shoulders.

"It means to us that we are not going to have to make cuts to our library hours, I'm not going to have to reduce people's hours that they're going to work, we're able to maintain our service level as it is now to our patrons," said Corey.

Corey, who has been chief librarian for five years, said she is concerned about the government's desire to change the current per capita funding model.

"I'm maybe more pessimistic than I need to be," said Corey, "just because I've been looking at this funding situation and worrying and stressing about it."