The Burns Lake Public Library has recently asked Burns Lake council to support a Northern Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) resolution asking the province to increase funding for public libraries.
According to the Burns Lake library, libraries in B.C. are underfunded to meet the evolving needs of their communities.
In 2009, funding for public libraries was cut by 20 per cent and has remained at a figure of approximately $14 million. Meanwhile Alberta’s support for public libraries in 2015 was over $33 million.
The NCLGA resolution asks the province to restore funding to pre-2009 levels and to form a task force to work with library associations to ensure that funding formulas do not allow urbanization to threaten their sustainability.
According to a letter sent to council by the Burns Lake library, libraries play an integral role, especially in rural communities.
“One could argue that their role is critical - truly democratic institutions that have been practicing reconciliation and welcoming newcomers through open and inclusive policies since their inception,” says the letter. “Ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic labels are left at the door to a public library.”
“Libraries were safe places long before the mainstream made it a priority,” continues the letter. “Enter inside and you find the great equalizer - literacy.”
The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) has received resolutions since 2011 calling for the provincial government to restore funding to pre-2009 levels and to provide funding that allow for the increased costs of providing evolving library services.
Although these resolutions have been widely supported by the members of UBCM, the Burns Lake Public Library says the dire funding situation continues to plague libraries, particularly small, rural libraries who compete with multiple priorities for funding.
“In essence, it has fallen on what appears to be, deaf ears.”
“The situation is exacerbated in smaller rural communities who rely on commodity markets and face boom and bust cycles that lead to dwindling populations as British Columbia faces ongoing urbanization,” adds the letter.“In order to support these cycles of boom and bust, and provide residents the opportunity to participate in new economies and re-invent communities requires a stable, vibrant public library.”
According to a 2010 Labour Market Strategy Report, almost 600,000 working British Columbians do not have the minimum literacy and essential skills required to successfully participate in a knowledge economy.
Burns Lake council has agreed to support the NCLGA resolution.