The industrialist Andrew Carnegie once said, “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”
Like all great social enterprises, a strong and vital public library depends on stable and adequate funding and this, in turn, depends on the support of both the public and those empowered to make decisions for the public good.
Approximately 75 per cent of the operating budget of Creston Valley Public Library is funded through the local tax base for the Town of Creston and Regional District of Central Kootenay areas A, B and C. This funding covers book purchases, computers, staffing costs, building maintenance and other needed equipment and supplies.
Another 15 per cent is funded through the libraries and literacy branch of the Ministry of Education. This funding supports collaboration with regional and provincial libraries. It is what allows folks from Riondel and Crawford Bay to use the Nelson library without paying the $90/year non-resident fee. It allows you to borrow books from any library in the province, either while travelling or through interlibrary loans. It also helps support our ebook, audiobook and other electronic databases.
The remaining 10 per cent is raised through miscellaneous grants, donations and library-generated revenue, such as overdue fines and photocopy charges. These funds support special projects, such as the community access program, Summer Reading Club, construction of the Lawrence Lavender Reading Garden and many others.
I’ve written here before about how the public libraries provide a significant net economic benefit to the community. Simply put, the value that the community receives through pooling and sharing our resources far exceeds the financial outlay required to maintain the library.
Families in this community rely on the library’s high quality resources and programs, seniors depend on our free computer training, community groups rely on our public meeting spaces and people from all walks of life depend on the library for their recreational and lifelong learning needs. As a recent article (“How Public Libraries Are Solving America’s Reading Problem”) in Forbes magazine pointed out, when you do the math, the public library is a great deal.
As we’ve seen with some privatization initiatives in recent years, lower taxes do not always mean lower costs to citizens. Having a well-managed and publically accountable social service — a service that provides significant value to a broad cross section of the community — is, in my opinion, a worthy investment for my tax dollars.
We are extremely fortunate in Creston to have elected officials who understand the value of the public library. Mayor Ron Toyota and area directors John Kettle, Larry Binks and Garry Jackman, as well as Lower Kootenay Band Chief Jason Louie, have been strong supporters of the library over the years, and our beautiful, spacious facility is a testament to their advocacy and hard work.
With local elections on the horizon, it is a good time to remind our leaders and would-be leaders of the value and importance of a vibrant, well-equipped public library. Ask them if they will support stable funding for the library during their next term. Your children and grandchildren will thank you.
Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at the Creston Valley Public Library.