The city’s public library is looking for a two per cent increase in its largely city-funded budget as it continues to chase the elusive provincial and regional funding dollars to augment the growing service.
Each year — as part of the city’s budget process — the city’s chief librarian, Tracey Therrien, presents city council with the proposed provisional budget for the library, this year asking for an almost $18,000 hike.
Therrien said the increase would be used to prop up a budget that has been squarely borne by municipal and two regional contributions, while the library deals with limited physical space constraints and a two per cent rise in usage.
The coming challenges for the library continue to be funding, she iterated, with provincial funding remaining stagnant since 2009, and Area E not contributing any direct taxation to library services.
Over the last five or six years the library has been receiving grants from Area E for specific purposes — such as money for library memberships for kindergarten to Grade 12 students — or towards funding public computer stations.
“But it is not any regular funding,” said library board chairperson Christine Deynaka.
In 2018 through taxation, Area F contributed $89,000, Area H south contributed $63,000, while Area E contributed $8,500 through special funding.
The province’s $67,000 annual contribution has also not moved forward and does not look like it will change, said Therrien.
“That has been an ongoing,” struggle since 2009, she told city council.
The library edges ever closer to a $1 million budget with its latest request, a bump driven by a 12 per cent rise in library management and a 13 per cent jump in operating income.
A decision will be made by the new city council on the library’s request as it enters into deliberations over the 2019-2023 budget, an undertaking that has now begun.
Of the nearly million dollar budget — in 2018 it was $957,000 — around 71 per cent of it goes to salaries and benefits, while 11 per cent is given over to building operations and collections makes up nine per cent.
Office management comprises five per cent, equipment and furnishings three per cent and programs one per cent.
On the income side, 67 per cent of the library’s budget comes from the City of Nelson, with 16 per cent derived from the regional district and seven per cent from the provincial government.
Operating income (five per cent), project grants (three per cent) and donations (two per cent) make up the rest of the library’s income sources.
The library is still a viable and relevant service, said Therrien. Although the number of people using the facility has risen by two per cent since 2015, the number of items being borrowed by people has dropped by four per cent.
“It is a critical element, especially in a democratic society, to continue to be a knowledge hub,” said Deynaka.
That drop in borrowing can be attributed to a 21 per cent rise in the online library usage — including ebooks, audio, databases — and a 28 per cent rise in interlibrary loans.
Since 2015 Wi-Fi usage has dropped 159 per cent, while public computer usage has risen by seven per cent.
The membership count in 2018 was 11,232, with 67 per cent of the library memberships coming from the city of Nelson itself.
Area F (North Shore) had the highest total outside of Nelson, with 15 per cent (1,731 memberships) and Area H (Slocan Valley) held 11 per cent, or 1,226 memberships. The other regional district area population that saw significant usage at the library was Area E with six per cent (661 memberships), although the area did not contribute to the service directly.
The facility itself has also remained a challenge, with finite space for growth and a demand for multi-use of the space.
A community consultation revealed a request for extended hours, more parking, more spaces for people to do group work and more control by library staff on Wi-Fi usage.