BANFF – The Banff Public Library is bracing itself for potential provincial government funding cuts.
In August, the United Conservative government announced half of the money allocated for public libraries was approved, but there was a freeze on the rest of the funding until the Oct. 24 budget. Library boards, however, remain uncertain about receiving full funding from the province.
Officials with Banff’s library board say the organization is in a very positive financial situation with approximately $300,000 in accessible assets, in both operating and capital reserves, and an endowment of about $15,000 with aggressive plans to grow it into another funding source.
“This positive financial situation has put us in a very good position to weather any potential issues that may arise with changes to funding sources – currently there is some uncertainty with provincial funding,” said Andrew Oosting, outgoing chairman of Banff's library board.
“Although with our reserves we can absorb some of these variations in the amount of provincial funding we receive, we are cautiously looking forward to the new provincial budget on October 24 to determine if there are any cuts to larger funding.”
This provincial funding accounts for about nine per cent of the total annual budget. Currently, the library has only received about half of that, amounting to a about $26,000 if the rest is not approved in the provincial budget.
"Although it is a smaller portion of the budget, we rely on this funding to help run our children programs and storytimes, adult programming, and specialty programs and services such as our summer reading program" said Oosting. "We are hoping that once the budget is released that the province releases the remaining portion of the grant."
If that does not happen, Oosting said the Banff Public Library will need to dip into its operating reserves to minimize the impact on its patrons and the community.
The library board will evaluate and present a delegation to council to explain the situation and potential options moving forward.
The Town of Banff’s grant to the library for 2019 was $463,227. The library’s current request for 2020 is $472,492, but that’s pending council’s deliberations and approval during the budgeting process.
“In general, we just call on you as a council to support and speak up for libraries and the services we provide to make sure the library can continue to be a great resource for our community,” Oosting said.
The Banff Public Library is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
With humble beginnings in the Peter and Catharine Whyte’s house to the current location at 101 Bear St., Oosting said the board is excited with how the library has been received in the community over the past seven decades.
“A dive into our history is amazing to see how adaptable we are to changing demographics, visitor trends and to various technologies,” Oosting said.
“Our library continues to provide a space for residents to gather and become inspired, enriched and connected.”
In 2018, more than 117,000 people walked through the doors of the library, with the collection checked out almost 100,000 times by Alberta patrons.
The library offered about 530 programs, including 348 for programs for children and 159 for adults and seniors, which attracted about 7,000 participants throughout the year.
“The library staff has done a great job to make sure that they make the experience for both residents and visitors special,” Oosting said.
Council congratulated the library on its 70 years and thanked Oosting and five other outgoing board members for their service.
Councillor Peter Poole said the library’s numbers are outstanding, noting they eclipse that of many other public institutions.
“What you’re providing for the community is really, really valuable,” he said.