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HELSTON: Our libraries are worth the money

Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for InfoNews.
January 23, 2015 - 7:57 AM

As the Okanagan Regional Library looks for places to snip and save costs, one municipality has stepped up as a champion for its local branch.

In the last few months, we’ve heard about cuts to staff positions and reductions in business hours as part of a process to improve equity at the regional library’s 29 service locations, which stretch from Revelstoke to Osoyoos. A financial review revealed some branches were getting more money compared to other locations, and the library board undertook the difficult job of boosting some services at the cost of others.

It’s often easier to cast blame in a bad situation than find solutions, but the City of Vernon has shown us how a community can come together. The library board approached city council last week about Sunday openings at the Vernon branch. Sundays had been identified as a way to save $21,000 annually, and if city council didn’t do what it did next, all the families, working people, and those looking for a warm place to spend the day would probably have said goodbye to those precious days.

Council voted unanimously to fund Sundays at the Vernon Library. The decision came after council heard from several impassioned library users who came to make sure their elected representatives knew what the service meant to them. One woman said the library played a pivotal role in the life of her young son, who suffers from an anxiety disorder. In her professional life as a youth and family counsellor, she’s also seen how the library benefits low-income families. Others spoke of the library as a meeting place, a community hub, and a ‘gym for our minds.’

“We are hoping that we’ll be putting more money into the library and making it even more vibrant,” said one library user.

Stories were shared by members of council as well. The mayor noted how his own kids adore the library. He credited their passion for reading to the library. In council chambers alone, there were so many individual stories. 

Libraries are becoming more and more diverse, and as they do, so are their users. At the Vernon Library, for example, you’ll find kids lining up for story time, and avid book clubs discussing novels, but you’ll also find people making use of computers, participating in writer’s circles, or checking out seeds from the seed lending library. With 579, 114 items borrowed last year, the library has the highest circulation of the region’s 29 branches. A place like that is worth fighting for.

Given the Vernon Library’s success, it’s likely no coincidence it was one of the branches receiving a bigger slice of the funding. It’s also proof that investing in our libraries is worth the money.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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