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Northern municipalities support library funding

Burns Lake brought forward resolution
The Village of Burns Lake brought forward a motion at the North Central Local Government Association’s convention in May calling for the provincial government to address a “dire” situation for the funding of public libraries. (Lakes District News file photo)

Local governments in northern B.C. have given their approval to a resolution meant to address a “dire funding situation” that northern municipalities say is plaguing rural libraries.

The Village of Burns Lake brought forward the resolution at the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) convention, which took place in Fort Nelson earlier this month.

It’s the latest step in a push that would restore provincial library money to pre-2009 levels and form a provincial task force to look into funding for small rural libraries.

In 2009, the B.C. Liberal government cut public library funding by more than 20 percent. Since then, funding has remained stagnant at $14 million annually.

The resolution, which was endorsed by the NCLGA’s membership at the convention, states that public libraries in B.C. are badly needed services — notably for people with low literacy skills — but are “underfunded to meet the evolving needs of their communities.”

In resource-dependent communities that are seeing their populations dwindle, vibrant public libraries are needed to help those communities reinvent themselves and to “provide residents the opportunity to participate in new economies,” according to the resolution.

The next step is for the motion to be endorsed by Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) in September, which has received resolutions calling for restored funding since 2011, according to the NCLGA resolution.

“Although these resolutions have been widely supported by the members of UBCM, the dire funding situation continues to plague libraries, particularly small, rural libraries who compete with multiple priorities for funding,” the resolutions states.

Asked about the resolution, a spokesperson for provincial education minister Rob Fleming praised libraries, calling them “vibrant, critical community hubs,” but said “it would be premature to respond to a motion that is still going through the UBCM process.”

The spokesperson added that the ministry is currently “looking at the overall strategic priorities for public library service and how provincial funding for libraries is distributed.”