Li­braries un­der­funded: EY

Con­sul­tant says there’s lack of mu­nic­i­pal cash com­pared to rest of coun­try

The Compass - - Editorial - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK

Pub­lic li­braries in New­found­land and Labrador need more money and more staff, but more re­sources should not nec­es­sar­ily come from the prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to con­sul­tants with EY.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties should be tapped for a greater con­tri­bu­tion, EY sug­gests, not­ing other ju­ris­dic­tions in Canada share costs.

The re­cent re­port, based on a re­view launched by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in June 2016 — said pub­lic li­braries should also pay less rent, or no rent, to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties for space. Of the 94 pub­lic li­braries in the prov­ince, 13 lease space from mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

The re­port shows the li­brary sys­tem in New­found­land and Labrador is not keep­ing up with the rest of Canada, with fund­ing “very low” when com­pared to other provinces. To­tal fund­ing is $22.67 per capita, or 42 per cent be­low the na­tional av­er­age of $39.21 per capita.

Lin­ing up the provinces, per capita fund­ing in New­found­land is the sec­ond-low­est in Canada, after Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

At the same time, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is pro­vid­ing more fund­ing per capita to the sys­tem than are other pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments. That is be­cause other provinces share the cost with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Fund­ing from towns and cities for New­found­land pub­lic li­braries is 92 per cent be­low the na­tional av­er­age, ac­cord­ing to EY.

The re­port noted $17.7 mil­lion per year, over a three-year pe­riod, of­fered by the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity to the li­brary sys­tem there, com­pared to the $70,700 in cash and $1 mil­lion of in-kind con­tri­bu­tions from all the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in New­found­land and Labrador in 2015-16.

“Ex­pec­ta­tions on achiev­ing in­creases in mu­nic­i­pal fund­ing need to be re­al­is­tic,” the re­port adds. “The im­me­di­ate fo­cus should be on larger mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Smaller mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties should con­tinue to pro­vide, and in­crease where pos­si­ble, valu­able in-kind con­tri­bu­tions.”

The study by EY ad­dresses hours of open­ing, gov­er­nance and pro­gram­ming. It was launched in the midst of an up­roar after an an­nounced push for sud­den re­gion­al­iza­tion and talk of the pos­si­ble clo­sure of more than half the li­braries in the prov­ince. Clo­sures are still pos­si­ble. The EY re­port sug­gests the pro­vin­cial li­braries board es­tab­lish stan­dards for lo­ca­tions, then con­sol­i­date and close li­braries as re­quired to meet those stan­dards.

“Sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties with phys­i­cal li­braries have very small and de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tions, call­ing into ques­tion the sus­tain­abil­ity of li­braries in cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties,” the re­port stated.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Dale Kirby made no im­me­di­ate com­mit­ments after the re­lease of the re­port.

“The rec­om­men­da­tions put for­ward in the re­port will in­form next steps in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process for the Pro­vin­cial In­for­ma­tion Li­brary Re­sources Board and our gov­ern­ment,” read a state­ment is­sued on be­half of Kirby.

The rec­om­men­da­tions, said, are un­der re­view.

The work by EY in­cluded 11 it con­sul­ta­tion ses­sions in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber 2016 at var­i­ous sites in the prov­ince, plus staff in­ter­views, on­line sur­veys and writ­ten sub­mis­sions. The fi­nal re­port is avail­able in full on the pro­vin­cial li­brary board’s web­site.

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