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City of Powell River Council supports call for library funding

Motion passes to urge provincial government to raise contributions toward all libraries in BC
INCREASE MONEY: At the request of the Powell River Public Library board, City of Powell River councillors have endorsed a motion for the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities for the province to increase funding for libraries.

City of Powell River councillors will carry forward a motion to restore provincial support for public libraries.

At the January 19 meeting of city council, councillor Trina Isakson brought forward the motion. She said it had come from Powell River Public Library’s board, requesting that city council put forward a resolution to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) when they next meet. According to Isakson, the motion is to restore and increase sustainable funding.

“The current funding for public libraries stands at $14 million and this amount has been the same for more than 10 years,” said Isakson. “There have been no increases due to inflation or cost of living or any other costs that libraries incur. Public libraries are not only dealing with struggling funding from the provincial government, they are also in a period of time when there are more asks of them, playing more of a social services role in our community. The library is looking for our support.”

Isakson said the matter is of concern to the city because it funds the library and the less the province supports libraries, the city has to pick up the bill.

“Granted, it’s all taxpayer money, but it puts pressure more acutely in local communities,” said Isakson.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said at one point in BC, public libraries were funded by public dollars from the provincial government.

“Over time, that has changed to being picked up by cities, so the goal of public libraries helps all people, not just the community members,” said Elliott. “It’s coordinating information across the province that is educational for everyone. Without the existence of public libraries throughout communities in BC, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to coordinate province-wide educational materials for adults who can’t go to college or some other educational institution.

“It’s a form of provincial offloading that is happening on a lot of social fronts. We should, across BC, raise our hands and say no, this is not okay. I would like fairness in this issue with the province.”

Councillor Rob Southcott said he had served on the local library board for eight years.

“I was proud to be our council delegate to the library board,” said Southcott. “All across this province, libraries, over this decade, with shrinking funding, have increased services. During COVID-19 times, they went right into gear very quickly and provided expanded electronic services and connectivity to many people in our community. These are huge services.

“Our library and the libraries across BC are no less important to the broader community in this province than education is to children. This is a very central service. If we keep the pressure up, maybe the province will get the message.”

Mayor Ron Woznow said he had been a member of the library board and that he and his family funded the children’s reading room.

“Anyone who has walked in there and seen the two-, three- and four-year-olds huddled around the table reading, understands the importance of it, especially for families who can’t afford iPads or iPhones,” said Woznow. “I strongly support this.”

AVICC motion

The motion for AVICC reads: whereas libraries in British Columbia are largely financed by levies paid by local governments, and where provincial library funding has remained stagnant for the past 10 years;

And whereas public libraries are central to communities, providing equitable access to vital resources including internet, computers, digital tools and in-person services from expert staff;

And whereas public libraries provide British Columbians with low-barrier services that support job seekers and small businesses, that increase literacy in communities, that advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and that promote equity and inclusion;

Therefore, be it resolved that the City of Powell River urge the Government of British Columbia to provide long-term sustainable funding for public libraries in BC;

And be it further resolved that the province ensure that BC libraries will henceforth receive regular increases to provincial government funding in subsequent years.