In British Columbia, Provincial Support for Libraries Cut 22%
Library advocates somewhat relieved, had feared total loss of funds
Norman Oder -- Library Journal, 08/21/2009
- Weeks of worry that all funding would be cut
- Hope that improved economy will restore service
- Provincial funding supports databases, reference, literacy BC OneCard
After weeks in which library advocates feared a complete loss of provincial funds—which historically provides about ten percent of public library support—officials in British Columbia (BC) announced a 22 percent cut in funding, to $13.7 million CAD (about $12.7 million USD).
That prompted a positive response from the Association of BC Public Library Directors, the BC Library Association, and the BC Library Trustees' Association (BCTLA), which said they were “pleased to see that the provincial government recognizes the integral role public libraries play in community development and literacy and is therefore avoiding deep cuts to library funding.”
It is unclear whether the reductions will affect all provincial programs, such as reference and literacy support, equally. “As the budget process is ongoing, details on grants that will not be funded have yet to be announced,” the organizations said. “We do, however, appreciate that public libraries will be able to continue providing most of the services traditionally funded by the Province. These are fiscally challenging times and we understand that temporary cuts, while difficult, are necessary.”
They said they hoped that, as the provincial economy improves, so can library support, as has occurred in some other Canadian provinces.
In a letter to library groups, a Ministry of Education official wrote, “This government set a clear budget plan in February that focuses on government’s priorities of health care and education. To support this focus, government undertook a comprehensive review of discretionary grants and had to make some difficult decisions…With the funding available, we will endeavour to address the greatest need and to preserve vital public library infrastructure.”
The library groups, however, had noted that, without provincial grants, significant cuts would result in areas of open access (more than 5.4 million items borrowed between communities last year); online full-text magazines and databases purchased cooperatively; AskAway, a collaborative reference service; the BC OneCard, which allows residents to use other provincial libraries; and literacy programming, such as the free BC Summer Reading Club and Books for BC Babies.
Effort to stave off cuts
In July, the Fraser Valley Regional Library established Stop BC Library Cuts, a web site aimed to help the library community mobilize public support in the campaign to maintain provincial grants.
Also, BCTLA has an extensive list of resources and links to articles.