To contribute to COVID-19 relief and recovery, the B.C. government is distributing funds to public libraries.
A total of $8 million has been allocated for 71 public libraries, six library federations, and three library service partners across the province.
The funds will go towards improvements such as expanded digital collections, better internet access, upgraded spaces and programming, and improved air circulation.
The Creston Valley Public Library is receiving $39,000, which so far has been used to purchase new furniture, supplies for tech programming, debit/credit machines, an air-quality monitor for wildfire season, and a subscription to the Centre for Equitable Library Access, which supports patrons with print disabilities. Small-scale renovations to develop an area for teens and a toddler play space is also being considered.
In addition, library staff will work with the Kootenay Library Federation towards emergency preparedness planning.
Funds will also be used to replenish the budget that was used to purchase COVID-19 supplies and cover staffing during illness.
“We’re very thankful that the province has released these funds to ease the COVID pressure on rural libraries,” said Saara Itkonen, library director.
“One time funding grants are great for purchasing items that are needed, but the big challenge for rural libraries overall is having the ongoing, operational funds to pay wages for staff and annual costs, such as electronic resources or e-book subscriptions.”
In Creston, the Regional District of Central Kootenay has stepped in this year to staff a librarian for children and teens.
“However, this places a larger financial burden on our community that already makes less annual income than the provincial average for municipalities,” said Itoken.
“Our staff are the lifeblood of libraries, so I look forward to working with the province to increase the ongoing operational funding that was cut over a decade ago, so we can make sure our libraries have the well-trained people to assist and support the learning needs of our community.”
Other funds distributed to public libraries in the Kootenay region include $29,600 to Salmo, $28,700 to Kaslo, and $42,ooo to Nelson.