Chief librarian proposes grant increase for Powell River Public Library

Facility requires more staff, says Rebecca Burbank

Powell River Public Library chief librarian Rebecca Burbank, brought the library’s 2019 budget before City of Powell River’s finance committee on Thursday, January 24, asking for a municipal grant of $808,790, which is an increase of 5.4 per cent from last year.

The library is the first municipal organization to present its budget request to the city for the 2019 fiscal year. It will also need approval from qathet Regional District because it provides a grant as well.

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According to Burbank, the library needs more room for staffing and the budget request for labour in 2019 is $782,000, up from $751,000 in 2018. At 60 per cent of the total expense, labour costs are the highest operational expense.

Burbank said the steadily increasing popularity of the library in the Powell River area has led to the requirements for more staffing.

“The 2018 budget was cut back quite a bit from what we had initially proposed in our request to the city and regional district,” said Burbank. “We made do on quite a bit less last year than we had hoped. One of the big things they cut was auxiliary staffing. We're hoping to build that up.”

With staff cutbacks last year, Burbank said it reduced the ability of staff to deliver effective library services. She said she wants to turn that around in 2019.

“I can tell you the goal of it is that we aren't pulling our staff away from their primary jobs to cover the service desk,” said Burbank.

Other items impacting the budget include capital costs and facilities, which are the nuts and bolts of the library, such as janitorial, maintenance, hydro and internet, according to Burbank. Those things keep doors open, she said. That expense is up 8.4 per cent to $323,000, including replacing computer hardware and facilities.

There were unanticipated costs not budgeted for last year and some mistakes were made, according to city councillor and finance committee chair Rob Southcott, who is also council’s representative on the library board.

“Carpet cleaning, nobody thought about that,” said Southcott. “That was one of the things that was only estimated for the first year that turned out to be more expensive.”

The cost of operating the library is shared by the city, qathet Regional District and Tla’amin Nation. The city covers 62.3 per cent of the cost, the regional district provides 27.5 per cent of the funds, Tla’amin’s share is seven per cent and the remainder comes from other funding sources.

For 2019, in addition to the municipal grant, the library budget calls for $357,000 from the regional district, a 5.4 per cent increase from last year and Tla’amin is being asked for $5,774, a seven per cent increase.

“The library is a slim operation for the value this whole community gets out of it,” said Southcott.

Burbank said last year there were increases in the use of the collection, attendance at programs and increased use of the space itself, even with the reduction of the ability to staff it.

“That's a bit of tension that I'd like to resolve,” she said.

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