B.C. municipalities want province to end library funding freeze
'Those places we can come together are ultimately extremely important,' says VPL chief librarian
An ongoing campaign to push the B.C. government to provide more funding to public libraries got a boost this week, but it remains to be seen whether the province will act.
At the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, a resolution was passed Wednesday calling on the province to provide $20 million in annual funding to libraries, a $6-million increase from the status quo.
"Library funding has been the same for the past 10 years at $14 million," said Christina de Castell, the Vancouver Public Library's chief librarian.
Meanwhile, service delivery costs are rising, forcing the library to cut other services, De Castell said
"It's not possible to keep operating our libraries and keep them open the same hours with less money over time," she said.
The resolution comes after several months of individual motions passed by local councils across B.C., as part of a lobbying campaign by the British Columbia Library Trustees Association.
But in a statement by the Ministry of Education, the government would not commit to increasing funding in its next budget. Rather, it said the ministry is reviewing strategic priorities to enable all libraries to "deliver connected and digitally enhanced programs."
At a forum for UBCM delegates on Thursday, de Castell expressed optimism the government would provide more funding, saying that public spaces like libraries are becoming increasingly important.
"It's the places where people can come together with other people, that might not be like them in their community and build those new connections," she said.
"As we become a more polarized society, those places we can come together are ultimately extremely important."
A number of library officials spoke to mayors and councillors about the programs and resources they offer, from audio books to Indigenous genealogy programs.
"I think the real challenging thing for libraries is it's hard to measure transformation," said Matt Boyd, a trustee with the Greater Victoria Public Library Board.
While he also is an advocate for $20 million in annual funding, he said libraries needed to make sure they could track the work they're doing outside of loaning out books, from providing ID to helping children learn to read.
"How do we make sure we're measuring those things that are really, really important?"