Library adapting to frozen funding levels

Chief Librarian Larry Little says the Penticton Public Library will remain crowded into a too small space for some time to come as the library faces another year of a frozen budget. - Steve Kidd/Western News
Chief Librarian Larry Little says the Penticton Public Library will remain crowded into a too small space for some time to come as the library faces another year of a frozen budget.
— image credit: Steve Kidd/Western News

Penticton council will likely have to come up with an extra $4,000 if the Penticton Public Library is to be open on Sundays this fall after the facility’s board requested no increases for their 2011 budget.

Frozen since 2009 at $934,719, library board chairperson Al Kidd told council the board will only seek a budget increase if the city’s current negotiations with its CUPE represented workers results in wage increases.

Kidd pointed out that the board was able to reduce its budget by $31,692 in order to keep it at the 2009 level despite rising operating and capital costs.

According to Kidd, the board saved money by reducing the number of items bought, subscriptions made and online databases offered to the public, as well as by adopting a bulk leasing program for best-sellers, not replacing computers or servers until beyond their life expectancy, using old city and school board computers with old software and servers, stopping the practice of putting protective covers on books and not replacing a staff member who left the library.

Accommodating about 5,000 visits on an average week and providing a range of services, the library also added new revenue sources including three annual book sales, expansion of the Okanagan Regional Library receptacle agreement, public donations, sale of book bags and charging visitors to access the Internet.

It also continued with last year’s decision to eliminate Sunday openings come October — the library will continue to open on Sundays until its April 19 traditional spring closure due to additional funding secured by council and the board last year.

Coun. Andrew Jakubeit inquired whether shifting or reducing hours of operation on other days would allow the library to reopen on Sundays.

“One of the problems when you do that is that when you take from one area there are rivers of repercussions way down the line,” said Kidd. “Yes we can always steal from one area to put money over here, but what is best for one person is not always best for somebody else.

“When we look at our numbers for Sundays and we look at our numbers for other days and other hours, we think we are doing the correct thing for the public at large.”

Coun. Judy Sentes, council’s liaison to the library board, reiterated that the board had worked diligently to find another way to make budget other than closing on Sundays.

“It was painful,” she said. “The Sunday closures was not an easy decision nor was it made or undertaken lightly.”

Sentes said if the city were to give the library more money, she thinks the facility has more pressing needs than offering services on Sundays, such as its “very decrepit bathroom facilities” or the fact that the space is so crowded that some of the books must be stored on heaters.

However, Coun. John Vassilaki pledged to bring a motion to council, as he did last year, to come up with the $4,000 required to keep the library open on Sundays.

“In my opinion, it is part of the art culture of our society to be able to go to a library and read the books, especially for kids,” said Vassilaki. “My main interest is kids. Adults, they can take care of themselves, but kids can’t.”

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