After reading the recent Taber Times article on library funding, I was both shocked and appalled at the ignorance shown by our town council concerning municipal library funding.
My first concern is with the priority that the council places upon the library. Perhaps they are ignorant of the fact that the Alberta Library Act was one of the first legislative acts approved by the new Province of Alberta in 1905, because our forefathers were acutely aware of the importance of information to a healthy democracy. In fact, the CTRC has estimated that approximately 15 to 20 per cent of rural populations are cut off from information due to their inability to afford computers and/ or Wi-Fi. Is the council aware of the fact that most companies now require that you apply for a job online?
Not only are you able to securely access the internet at the library to look for or apply for jobs, there are numerous career courses online, and a volunteer who comes in to instruct patrons on Windows 10 or any tablet needs.
There are language courses for new Canadians and a library app which provides tutorials on Alberta core curriculum subjects. Secure Internet access is also available after 4 p.m., and Saturdays, unlike open Wi-Fi sites in town.
Which brings me to my next concern, the accusation that the Taber Library provides duplicate services at a cost to the taxpayer. As someone who has both worked and volunteered at a local public school, our library and Taber Adult Learning, I can assure you there are no duplication of services which will cost the taxpayers money.
In fact, children in my class who wanted to learn more about a subject or author can use our public library after school hours and Saturdays, and instantly have access to the resources in over 30 libraries in southern Alberta.
The minister of education is in no way depending upon the library to help teach literacy as one councillor falsely claimed.
The library is a public place where community groups can meet at no cost. In fact before wild accusations are made about what programs are offered at the library and how much they cost the taxpayer, I believe the council should be checking out what other libraries such as Coaldale and Brooks are offering in terms of programming.
Which brings me to my next concern. Is the council not aware of the costs of running a public library in a town of our size in a rural community?
I have seen money thrown at electric signs, fire stations, more police officers, and fire engines, and yet when the library draws down its reserves it is criticized for not asking for any increases in four years. The staff have never benefitted from the raises that the council has given to city employees and in fact most of the budget is eaten by salaries, utilities and resource purchases…if you find any fat in the budget like tickets to Japan, I would be extremely surprised.
The towns of Hinton, Banff, Edson, Morinville, and Olds are close in size to Taber with a council that understands the importance o funding our institutions that contribute the most to our citizens. I urge our citizens to vote in the next election for councillors that are willing to investigate before making invalid claims.