The B.C. government has signaled that it may cut grants to public libraries when it tables a new provincial budget on Sept. 1.
This seems like a desperate measure given that library grants are a tiny portion of the $39-billion provincial budget. In 2008, 71 libraries serving more than four million people throughout B.C. received $20 million in direct provincial grants; that's less than $5 per person for the whole year. The lion's share of library funding comes from local governments, yet the provincial grant program is a vital part of library budgets, especially now when many towns are experiencing mill closures and layoffs.
Public libraries save thousands of dollars each year by sharing resources with each other. In fact, provincial grants are often tied to resource-sharing programs, such as interlibrary loan, B.C. OneCard, online reference service and group purchasing agreements. Thanks to a province-wide interlibrary loan agreement, Sunshine Coast residents can borrow books from any B.C. public or college library. This is especially beneficial to small, rural libraries who are given access to a huge, virtual collection of books and information.
Public libraries are a sound social and economic investment. They empower people of all ages by giving them the information and resources they need to better their lives.
A democratic society such as ours relies on libraries to support an informed, literate citizenship. Tell our elected officials not to cut library grants. Go to the Gibsons Library homepage, gibsons.bclibrary.ca, and follow the link to the online petition, or write a letter to Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, minister of Education.
Laura Houle, librarian