CANMORE – New memberships to the Canmore Public Library jumped by 132 per cent year-over-year for the month of May after the board eliminated the annual membership fee on May 1.
Library director Michelle Preston told council 169 people signed up for a new membership in the month of May compared to 73 people the year before. Renewals also increased by 88 per cent year-over-year.
In June, that pattern continued with an 86 per cent increase in the number of new memberships year-over-year for a total of 134 new members. Renewals also increased by 30 per cent.
The library now has around 7,000 total memberships.
“In previous years, we’ve offered month long free membership drives and removing the library fee has always proved very popular,” said Preston. “As expected, after we implemented free memberships on May 1 this year, we saw a jump in the number of new and renewed memberships.”
Earlier this year the library board decided to eliminate fees to make the library more accessible and fall in line with other libraries in the Bow Valley that don’t charge an annual membership fee.
Prior to eliminating the fee an annual membership cost $12 for adults, $20 for families and $3 for seniors.
By eliminating the annual fee, Preston acknowledged the library will have to find alternative revenue streams to offset approximately $25,000 in lost revenue.
“We recognize the operational impacts of this change and we’re actively working to offset the loss in membership revenue,” said Preston.
She said they’ve revised the library’s room rental rates to align with the rest of Elevation Place, increased its exam and invigilation fees and is exploring various grant opportunities to supplement its budget.
“The response from library users has overwhelmingly been positive and we will certainly work hard to maintain that free membership,” said Preston.
In December, the library board asked council for $25,000 to help it eliminate the annual fee, however, council chose to pass on the request and instead opted to support it by covering the library’s utility and cleaning fees worth approximately $60,000.
The library’s total operating budget for 2019 is $1 million, with $854,000 coming from the municipality. The remaining costs are covered by the province, a Marigold grant, fines and rental fees.