VERNON - Sundays at the Vernon Library are here to stay.
The Okanagan Regional Library dodged having to cancel Sundays at the Vernon branch Friday, Jan. 16, after appealing to Vernon council for financial support in the amount of $21,000.
Without the funding, executive director Stephanie Hall said the branch could be shutting down its Sunday hours as soon as March in order to chip away at a needed $78,000 in savings. The push to find cost-savings comes in response to a financial review that revealed inequity among the regional library’s 29 branches. Trimming costs by cutting positions over the long term as staff retire is one way the library has looked at saving money, but that would take time, and the savings are needed sooner than later.
“The one piece of change that would happen faster... that we could see happening this year is to discontinue the Sunday openings,” Hall said in a presentation to council.
From October-April, the library opens for four hours on Sundays, and Hall said many people take advantage of the extra day.
“Full library resources are offered those days,” Hall said. “It’s a time when families come to the library as a group.... It’s a day working people can get in.”
On any given Sunday, you’ll likely find students doing research, families cruising the aisles, and individuals getting technical support from staff on electronic devices.
“We’re always a safe, warm and dry place, and that need doesn’t go away on Sundays,” Hall said.
The library board asked Vernon council to enter into a service contract providing $21,000 a year strictly to pay for library and janitorial staff on Sundays.
Several impassioned library users attended the meeting and spoke in support of the library’s request.
Vernon resident Samantha Simons said her son was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and that the library makes a huge difference in his life.
“The library has been pivotal in allowing my child to be able to go to a safe place and learn and his own pace,” Simons said.
Another parent, Mary Sue Nichols, said her family uses the library not just to take out books, but as a meeting place, a spot to do school work, and a place where her kids can enjoy a range of programs.
“We feel like the library is the heart of our community. When you start taking away support from the heart it affects everything else in the community,” Nicols said. “We are hoping that we’ll be putting more money into the library and making it even more vibrant.”
Council voted unanimously to support the $21,000 request for the upcoming year. It has the discretion to revisit the contract annually. At this time it’s unknown where council will find the cash in this year’s budget, and it will be approaching the other jurisdictions that use the Vernon library—the District of Coldstream and the North Okanagan Regional District—for funding partnerships.
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