We write to correct errors in Mr. Norm Harley’s letter (Gazette, Feb. 11) on the library.
No, the library board is not “in the process of submitting a long-term budget for approval.” While we plan for the long-term, we budget annually, as with other municipal services. The 2018 budget cycle begins in June and continues into December of 2017.
Yes, the operating budget covers wages and book purchases, but so much more, from IT infrastructure to building leases to eBooks and dozens more line items. But as a service organization our biggest cost (and our most valued resource) are our talented people.
No, costs are not going to skyrocket. The 2017 operating budget is a 0.4% increase over 2016, with the city grant rising 2.5%. library board trustees are all St. Albert taxpayers and understand the financial realities of our community.
Yes, operating costs have increased since 2000. In the seventeen years since 2000 much has changed for libraries and St. Albert, and St. Albert Public Library has worked hard to keep pace with the evolving and growing needs of our community. Our costs have risen in sync with other municipal services, in percentage terms slightly less than fire services, slightly more than police services. Use has grown substantially since 2000, with program attendance up 253%, total visits up 309%, loans up 53%, and public computer use growing from zero in 2000 to 35,000 in 2016.
No, operating costs will not triple by 2025. Library trustees are appointed by city council to carefully govern the library on behalf of citizens, including presenting a cost-effective annual budget. City council has final decision power on the library budget. As to the branch library, annual operating costs are estimated at $1.3 million, but do not kick in until the branch opens in 2019.
No, the library can’t operate through user fees. The library is a fundamental, core municipal service supported primarily by municipal taxpayers. Citizens rank the library as a strength of the city, with very high satisfaction ratings. And as with other city services, while not all residents use the library, we’re there when you need us.
No, eliminating library membership user fees will not download more costs to taxpayers. The fee free initiative, launched Jan. 1, 2017, is funded internally by the library through efficiencies, budget reallocations and enhanced fundraising. It finally brings St. Albert into line with libraries in metro Edmonton, Alberta and all across North America. And St. Albertans love the initiative, coming in for memberships in record numbers. We invite Mr. Harley to join them.
Janice Marschner, Chair, St. Albert Library Board