Provincial funding of $45 million for B.C.’s 71 public libraries was announced Friday at the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Cumberland branch.
The funds, which are in addition to the $14 million in annual provincial support for libraries, will be used for such things as modernized technology and enhanced programs and services.
“This is an important time for our library system with a new strategic plan on the horizon, rapidly increasing demand for our digital resources and a continuing trend towards pre-COVID use of our physical branches and collections,” said Erin Hemmens, chair of the VIRL’s 38-person board.
“Support from the ministry means VIRL can look at new opportunities to build literacy and learning, continue our journey toward reconciliation and build connections across our service area.”
Libraries offer a good return on investment “and play a pivotal role in ensuring equitable access to technology, resources, learning opportunities and safe spaces,” Hemmens said.
The VIRL’s new strategic plan is set to be adopted today, she said.
Rina Hadziev, executive director of the B.C. Library Association, said investments in libraries are investments in communities.
“With over 60 million visits per year, public libraries make life more affordable, foster lifelong learning and community connections, and provide vulnerable people with a welcoming space to access services,” Hadziev said. “This funding will help stabilize public libraries, ensuring they are able to meet the evolving needs of their local communities over the next few years.”
Digital resources at B.C.’s public libraries were used close to 16 million times in 2021, an increase of 47 per cent over 2019.
Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang said libraries do everything from offering regular internet access to delivering programs to newcomers, job seekers and seniors.
Summer-reading programs and clubs are provided, as well, she said.
Kang said that libraries have been “a safe harbour” for her at times in her life.
“Libraries mean so much to British Columbians,” she said.
The new funding will be in place at libraries by March 31, with each site determining how the money will be spent.
It follows a one-time, $8-million infusion of provincial funds last spring to help meet the demand for increased digital content, develop computer and virtual-technology training and retroactively cover costs associated with COVID-19.