By Cole Parkinson
The Taber Public Library is hoping to see an increase from the Municipal District of Taber library grant moving forward.
During council’s regular meeting on April 30, a delegation from Taber Public Library was in council chambers to give an update on things going on at the library and to make a pitch for increased funding.
“We are here today to discuss and present a request for the M.D. library branch to be increased next year,” said Heather Martin-Detka, library manager.
For their presentation, they touched on user statistics at the library, community engagement and discussed their grant request.
One of the bigger changes that have made a positive for the community was the reversal to charge for membership fees.
“In 2015, Taber Public Library did away with its membership fees. Membership fees are seen as a barrier to access and the provincial government emphasizes free uses of public library services. So residents of the Town of Taber and M.D. of Taber, excluding those in Barnwell, Enchant, Grassy Lake and Vauxhall, are eligible for free library cards at Taber Public Library. Those communities are excluded because they have their own public libraries where they need to get their cards through Chinook Arch. Our non-resident fee is $50,” added Martin-Detka.
While memberships are now free for residents, the library still has fees charged for overdue rentals, facility rentals, photocopying, replacement cards and a variety of other things.
With those free memberships, 2015 saw 1,242 members, 2016 was 1,433, 2017 was 1,500 and 2018 jumped to 1,514.
“Taber Public Library membership has grown by approximately 22 per cent. Town membership has grown by 26 whereas M.D. membership has grown by eight. We can see those fees associated with memberships were indeed a barrier for individuals getting cards,” explained Martin-Detka.
Visits online to their website and in person have also seen a big increase as 2015 saw 67,037, 88,393 in 2016, 92,743 and 106,476 in 2018.
“In total, visits have grown by 59 per cent and in-person has grown by 17 per cent and website visits have grown by 243 per cent. The web growth people are getting what we call their ready reference questions answered so those are things about our hours, location, maybe searching our collection online and learning about our programs,” continued Martin-Detka.
Due to the in-person visits up, computer use saw 5,523 people access TPL computers in 2018 and the wifi had 26,207 in the same year.
Another big draw for residents comes in the fact the Taber Public Library offers a variety of different programs throughout the year.
While overall program attendance was down in 2018 compared to 2017, Martin-Detka explained that was due to fewer programs.
“The number of our programs is down because we are aiming for a balance of quality versus quantity. Our average program attendance has actually grown year over year,” she said. “According to best practices as laid out by the Public Library Services branch, Taber Public Library is generally operating at an enhanced level. Meaning, in general, we are operating at a level above the basic best practices.”
In terms of community engagement, the library’s 2019 to 2023 plan of service includes community resources and services, lifelong learning, reading, viewing and listening for pleasure and physical and virtual spaces.
The delegation also highlighted some of their grants and awards they had received over the past few years.
STEP funding in 2016 ($1,638) for Summer Reading program coordinators, in 2017 was rewards for excellence and distinction award for homeschool science fair program ($400) and STEP for Summer Reading program coordinators ($2,898) and in 2018 rewards for excellence and distinction award for LGM story time program ($400), chin chute win power project grant for capital furniture ($1,650) and Young Canada Works grant for Summer Reading program coordinators ($10,781.20).
“We have shown responsible spending through accountable spending, as well as through the use of our excess reserves,” added Martin-Detka of the library’s budget. “Industry best practice is to have two to three months of operational spending left in your reserves just in the chance that funding is not received in a timely matter. Currently, we have $63,560 so approximately two months of operational spending left in our reserve account.”
Their 2018 budget was $334,870 with the actual total being $366,676.89 which meant $31,304.13 of their reserves was spent.
Last year, reserves held fund contracts, damage fees, janitorial, building upkeep etcetera while the budget was spent on new computers, updating some of our software licenses, water fountain, tune piano, DAISY readers among other things.
“We understand that we can’t ask one or two sources for financial support so we try to boost our revenues through fundraising, donations and grant applications,” stated Martin-Detka.
Fundraising events for the library include the Jingle Craft Sale and Silent Auction ($5,905 in 2018), Book sales ($1,396 in 2018), and an escape room ($500 in 2018).
Donations received by TPL go towards supplemental wish list collections and programs.
The current 2019 budget has the M.D. of Taber library board at $8.14 per capita compared to the Town of Taber which is at $27.23, Town of Vauxhall at $9.06, Village of Barnwell at $9.38 and the provincial average of $38.91.
“Beginning in 2020, we would like to request an increase to $10 per capita. Using that federal census date, which is available to me, this would increase M.D. spending from $57,812 to $70,980 and that is an increase of $13,168,” said Martin-Detka. “Following that, from 2021 to 2022 we would like to see a 3.33 per cent increase year over year as outlined in the library funding memorandum. That would cover that year over year inflation of library mandatory costs.”