Powell River Public Library seeks local government contribution increase

Chief librarian outlines successes of past year and outlines financial requests

Powell River Public Library will be seeking a 4.6 per cent increase in local government contribution funding from City of Powell River and qathet Regional District for the 2020 budget year.

Chief librarian Rebecca Burbank appeared before the finance committees of the city and the regional district, on January 22 and 23 respectively, to highlight statistics from 2019, and to outline the budgetary requests for 2020.

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According to a spreadsheet presented by Burbank, for the city, capital contributions in 2019 were $20,575 and operating contributions were $808,365, for a total of $829,365. The request for 2020 is $39,019 for capital and $828,632 for operating, for a total of $867,651. The differential between the two years is $38,286.

For the regional district, the 2019 capital contribution was $9,081 and the operating contribution was $356,969, for a total of $366,050. The request for 2020 is $17,222 for capital and $365,727 for operating expenses. The differential between the two years is $16,899.

The library had $1,327,050 of total revenue for 2019 and is forecasting total revenue of $1,382,958 for 2020. This would amount to $55,908, or a 4.2 per cent change.

Speaking at the city finance committee meeting, Burbank said she was appearing to provide an overview and some highlights.

One of the highlights was increased use of the library’s meeting rooms. She said there were an additional 200 bookings last year over the previous year, which brought the library up to more than 1,200 bookings, generating $10,933 in revenue, which is a 69.2 per cent increase.

Burbank said there have been improvements to the childhood literacy programming, with improved outcomes in language and education.

“One of the things the staff has really been focusing on this past year is early childhood literacy that focuses on the family unit – families working together – that way we’re not just working with children but we’re also working with parents, so hopefully they can take those skills home and have a more rounded literacy experience,” said Burbank.

She said the library space fosters social connections.

“Our staff works very hard to cultivate services that enable vulnerable groups in our community to continue to engage,” said Burbank. “We work to reduce the barriers.”

Programming includes books on wheels, which delivers materials to people who are homebound.

“Often, people on this list have several barriers to access,” said Burbank. “The volunteers who show up at their house come with a bag of books, a bag of audiobooks and sometimes a device that will read the book out loud to them. It helps people continue reading and engage with a part of their lives they might otherwise lose.”

Public computers and WiFi are also a big part of the program.

Burbank said the library is able to cultivate a sense of local identity. She said that is done through a focus on local and regional stories, local knowledge and expertise.

“We focus on this through our programs,” she added. “We also do this through our collections. We make sure we have the voices of local authors and storytellers on our shelves to share with the rest of the community.”

In terms of statistics, the physical item circulation in 2019 was up to nearly 183,000. Total circulation is almost 232,000, so it is continuing to grow. Burbank said total circulation is up 3.5 per cent.

In terms of average physical items borrowed per patron in 2019, city residents borrow 18.7 per year and regional district residents borrow 20.7 items per year.

For ebooks and eAudio, there were 23,126 circulations in 2019, representing a 24 per cent increase over 2018.

In terms of library card distribution, 50.8 per cent of city residents hold library cards and in the regional district, 45.8 per cent hold cards, although in Electoral Area A, 71.7 per cent of residents hold library cards. Burbank said the library card distribution is definitely something to be proud of because the provincial average is about 35 per cent. 

The library has nearly 55,000 physical titles on the shelves and more than 73,000 electronic titles.

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