The Grande Prairie Public Library at Montrose Cultural Centre in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Photo by Jesse Boily) Jesse Boily

The Grande Prairie Public Library (GPPL) presented its proposed budget for 2024 that includes a 10 per cent increase in operational funding to bring the library back to pre-pandemic staffing levels.

The library noted inflation has also led to the budget increase.

“In 2022, the library provided the people of Grande Prairie with close to $14 million worth of materials, services and programs at a time when the library had not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels of use,” Debbie Normington, library board chair, told city council during the Committee of the Whole meeting on June 19.

“That is a return on the city’s investment of $8.44 for every dollar invested in the library.”

She noted the average return in Canadian libraries is $4.64 per dollar spent.

Normington says so far in 2023, library usage is increasing and the financial return to the city will increase.

The city is the major funder of the library, providing 66 per cent of its revenue; the province supplies 15 per cent, County of Grande Prairie 13 and MD of Greenview two per cent. Between four and seven per cent is from generated funds and grants.

The city also provides gift-in-kind for the building at Montrose Cultural Centre: An estimated $963,150 in 2022, according to a city report.

Coun. Dylan Bressey asked the GPPL delegation about the impacts if the city did not fund the full 10 per cent increase.

Normington said no increase in funding would likely result in a further reduction in the hours the library is open.

Since 2019 the library has reduced frontline staff and its hours, closing an hour earlier in the evenings. She said the goal is to reinstate those hours and offer longer opening hours on Sundays.

“We offer warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer.

“We offer a place to get away from a busy life and give yourself a bit of a mental health break, and we offer places where people can meet with one another and combat social isolation.”

Normington explained that libraries are more than about books, as the GPPL offers a library of amenities including sports equipment and wifi hubs, while being recognized as a safe space for those who need it.

Coun. Wade Pilat, who sits on the library board as the city council representative, questioned if service levels are back to 2019 levels so as to require similar increases now to staffing levels.

He said library circulation has been down over the last 10 years but is trending up and that other services are on the decline including website visits and work sessions.

“I’m just confused why we’re trying to hire back to 2019 levels,” said Pilat.

GPPL Executive Director Deborah Cryderman expects circulation to be larger in 2023.

She says returning staff to 2019 levels will ensure books are getting back on shelves faster and overall better customer support.

According to the 2022 annual report, 469,630 items were borrowed in 2022 from GPPL, 378,594 in 2021, and in 2019 the library’s circulation was 430,409.

The committee directed city administration to bring back a report with information on the impact of service levels if council decided to freeze library funding and provide a cost of living increase only to GPPL.

The committee also referred the GPPL budget to fall budget deliberations.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 29, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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