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Okanagan Regional Library to improve equity among branches

Sisters Ellie and Samantha Souch pick out books to borrow at the new Vernon library. In a value for money review of the Okanagan Regional Library, Vernon was found to get out pretty close to what it puts in.

OKANAGAN - Some communities have been getting too good a bang for their buck when it comes to library services, but a new page is about to be turned.

A financial review of the Okanagan Regional Library conducted by the auditing firm Grant Thornton has revealed some inequity between its branches.

“In general, it showed that we have some work to do in aligning those costs and revenues,” Stephanie Hall, executive director for the ORL says. “There’s about six or seven communities that are pretty much bang on, and then there’s some that are farther out where we’ll have to talk to communities and say either you’re getting more service than you’re paying for or less and we’ll have to make some adjustments.”

Some of the communities spending the highest per capita levies (based on population and assessed property value) include Osoyoos, Sicamous, West Kelowna and Lake Country, all of which taxed between $40-47 per person in 2011. On the lower end, at around $32, are communities like Princeton, Enderby and Armstrong. In some communities, the ratio of dollars put into the system isn’t matching the services coming out.

“Where we have to do some work pretty quick is West Kelowna,” Hall says. “Our services have not kept pace with the additional investment.”

Improved service in places like West Kelowna might look like extended hours, the addition of secondary branches, or the creation of new employee positions. The librarian on staff will be consulted about what is needed most urgently, Hall says.

On the other end of the spectrum are communities like Salmon Arm, which are investing less and receiving more. Gradually, there will be a reduction of services in these places to even things out.

“You might have reduction of hours, or sometimes there’s an opportunity if someone is retiring, you might decide not to refill the position,” Hall says.

Other ideas are also on the way. The library board is looking at partnering  with other services under the same roof, like having a tourism information centre within the library, to help out with costs.

The library board, which receives 86 per cent of its funding through property taxes and the rest from government and charitable grants, will also take another look at fundraising opportunities.

“We generate far less than comparable libraries around the province,” Hall says.

The board has asked staff to provide an annual version of the review to better track the money. Building construction, like Vernon’s new library, could up what communities pay for their services, Hall says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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