Library budget concerns Northeast Town librarian

LITTLE CURRENT—Little Current Public Library Librarian Jake Marion says that more municipal funding is needed to maintain the current level of service the library offers.

“When I first started working here nine months ago the library had four staff computers, now we are down to three and none of the three remaining computers work 100 percent properly,” explained Mr. Marion. “The problem is that we can’t just replace the old computers when they fail. The system that we use is 12 years-old and won’t run on a new computer.”

Mr. Marion said that the library needs to update to a new system before the three remaining computers fail.

“To make matters worse, our server is nine years-old and, in my opinion, could fail any time,” continued Mr. Marion. “When that happens, we will be immediately reduced to using just one computer at a time. This is just one more problem to add to the list. These small projects, which are not difficult to handle individually, have been allowed to pile up. For example, the printer for our microfilm reader no longer works, the library could use new carpets and the lease on our photocopier is up. We need to start engaging with our capital projects and dealing with them before our service becomes seriously impacted.”

Over the next few years the province will be reducing funding for public libraries and especially grants, Mr. Marion explained. “Many of our services are paid for by the province.” He said this reduction could mean the loss of magazine subscriptions and access to e-books.

“If the public wants to maintain the current level of library service, we will need the necessary funds to maintain our equipment, maintain our collections and pay our staff,” he said.

Mr. Marion said he has met with town staff to discuss the need for more funding and plans on making a deputation to council.

“I don’t have staff to run senior or children’s programs,” Mr. Marion told The Expositor. “Our staff have no benefits or sick days, which is a problem as well. I am also looking for sufficient funds to complete pressing capital projects and maintain services.”

He also noted that compared to neighbouring municipalities, the Little Current Public Library is underfunded.

The Little Current Public Library, Billings Public Library, Central Manitoulin libraries (Providence Bay and Mindemoya) and Assiginack Public Library are all operated by boards. Budgets are created by the boards and operating funds are approved and provided by the municipalities, and part of those funds are used to pay staff. All four municipalities also maintain the municipal buildings that house the libraries.

According to the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport’s 2014 Ontario Public Library Statistics the local operating funding for area municipalities include $14,000 for Billings, $59,835 for the Northeast Town, $68,744 for Central Manitoulin (between the two libraries) and $35,600 for Assiginack.

The Expositor called local municipalities to find out the municipal contributions to the libraries for 2016: Billings, $15,000; Central Manitoulin (between the two libraries), $78,902; Assiginack, $36,685; and the Northeast Town $64,937.

Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin said that Mr. Marion’s conversation with town staff was “the first that I have heard that the library was in need of more funding.”

“I will be attending the October library board meeting to find out more information about what the library needs,” said Mr. MacNevin. “Last year they (the library board) asked for a six percent increase to their budget and council gave it to them. Their operating fund from the municipality was $64,000, with an additional $20,000 for the building—and we replaced the roof. I’m not sure where it is coming from that we don’t want to support the library—I think there is a disconnect.”

The Expositor connected Little Current Public Library Board Chair Karen Nesbitt who would only comment that Mr. Marion was speaking as a staff member of the library, not on behalf of the board.

As for whether the board would be requesting an increase in funding from the municipality for 2017, Ms. Nesbitt said that it was too early in the budget process to comment.