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Banff Library of Things looking at new staff position to oversee lending program

“The registrations for 2023 have more than doubled those registered in 2021 and 2022 combined for this program and the data shows the continued growth of this beloved program.”
20220915 Banff Library of Things JH 0002
Banff Public Library director Sarah McCormack showcases items in the Library of Things at Banff Public Library in 2022. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – The Library of Things used by Banff and Lake Louise residents to borrow carpentry tools, cookware, hobby items and household supplies continues to build on its success.

During the first day of council’s annual review of municipal services and programs Monday (Dec. 4), the governance and finance committee gave the thumbs up for $70,000 to fund a new full-time position to oversee the growing lending program at the Banff Public Library.

To be funded from the municipality’s environmental reserve, the position won’t get final approval until the Town of Banff’s 2024-26 operating budget is debated and passed.

Officials say the innovative project’s success has driven a need for additional funding to sustain and expand existing item lending services and related educational programming such as repair café style workshops – and meets goals in the zero waste action plan.

“The registrations for 2023 have more than doubled those registered in 2021 and 2022 combined for this program and the data shows the continued growth of this beloved program,” said Sarah McCormack, director of Banff Public Library.

“The Library of Things promotes sustainability, collaborative consumption, circular economy and lifelong learning by providing resources that cater to the community’s diverse needs and interests.”

What started as a pilot program in a partnership between the Banff Public Library and the Town of Banff in 2021 has since become a permanent lending program, giving residents access to useful items that are rarely needed, hard to store, or expensive to buy like automotive supplies, cooking supplies, digital equipment, hobby items, home supplies and more.

The program is also part of an initiative to shift more activities in Banff to a circular economy, which emphasizes reusing, repairing, recycling and recovering items rather than dumping them at the landfill after one person uses the product.

In its first two years of operation, more than 2,000 items have been circulated through the Library of Things, which Town administration equates to an estimated community cost saving of more than $200,000 from residents not needing to buy these items for themselves.

The Town of Banff has targets to divert 70 per cent of waste by 2028 and send zero waste to landfill by 2050.

Conversations as part of this year’s work on a follow-up to Banff’s 2019 community social assessment identified the Library of Things as one of the top community programs, noting it is a practical way to minimize over-consumption and useful for many locals who live in small spaces with limited storage.

Sewing machines, tools, and kitchen appliances were identified as high priorities.

The funding for the new position is on top of the Town of Banff’s annual grant to the library, which is identified in the draft 2024-26 operating budget as $581,994 in 2024, $596,327 in 2025 and $608,080 in 2026.

Mayor Corrie DiManno voiced strong support for the full-time position, noting the community has fully embraced the Library of Things.

“I think a good litmus test can sometimes be the Best of the Bow that Rocky Mountain Outlook runs and this got best environmental program second place and also got second place for best use of tax dollars in Banff,” she said.

“To me, that just really accurately reflects the sentiment from the community.”

Coun. Kaylee Ram, a council representative on the library board, said other communities are looking at the Banff program.

“I really think this does speak to the zero waste initiative and not having to add more to landfill,” she said.

The lone voice of opposition, Coun. Ted Christensen said he needed more information to support the new position.

“This is a new full-time position … and so I find without those further guidelines for cost and expansiveness of the program I can’t support it at this time,” he said.

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