Sechelt Library suspends adult programming

Adult programming at the Sechelt Library has been discontinued as of January 2019. The reason, according to the library in a Jan. 2 release, is to free up funds to fill the position of children’s and youth coordinator – a position that has stood vacant since last May.

“By discontinuing adult programming we are able to fill the children’s and youth position on a part-time basis for the first three months of 2019,” the release said.

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In 2018, 2,600 people attended adult programs such as author visits, Death Café, A Dickens Christmas and Tuesday Talks.

Unsupervised programs, such as the Elder Women’s drop-in group and language classes and Men’s Book Club will continue, as will technology programming with the library’s technical education coordinator.

The children’s and youth coordinator position is written into the library’s funding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local governments. The five-year MOU expired in December and is up for renewal.

The suspension of adult programming could be temporary if Sunshine Coast Regional District directors approve the library budget in February, according to the library. “If accepted, the library will be able to reintroduce adult programs, re-establish the youth position as permanent and full time, and fund the recently negotiated two per cent union increase in 2019.”

The 2018 local government budget for the library was just over $628,000, with the District of Sechelt contributing approximately $396,500. The B.C. government also provides funding, which in 2018 was budgeted at $73,694. The library does not receive capital funding.

Also written into the MOU is technology education and interlibrary loans, “both of which have increased substantially in the last five years.” The release stated that interlibrary loans, for example, have increased by a cumulative 171 per cent over three years, and in 2017, the library received 1,190 requests for technology.

More people are visiting the library, which is also putting a strain on staff, the release said. “Given current funding levels the library staff’s volume of work has increased beyond its ability to serve,” it stated. In 2018, the library began closing to the public on Wednesday mornings to provide time for staff to catch up on “back office” work, according to a budget report for the SCRD.

The MOU included an annual funding increase of six per cent per year, with the aim of closing a per capita funding gap compared to similar-sized libraries of $4.96. However that gap has continued to increase and as of 2017, was $9.46. In a report to the SCRD, the library stated one of the reasons for the gap is due to “the low base” of its original 2013 operating budget.

The library is requesting an increase of $78,559 over its 2018 budget to cover additional costs such as union-mandated salary and benefit increases, staffing, book acquisitions and inflation.

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