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Sylvan Lake Municipal Library not expecting cuts in upcoming provincial budget

Parkland Regional Library Director Ron Sheppard says cuts would affect rural Alberta libraries most

Parkland Regional Library is not concerned about funding cuts in the near future.

Libraries in Alberta will still be receiving half the regular funding for the year by the end of August, but it is unclear if the remaining 50 per cent will come in when the budget is finalized.

Deb Parry, chair of the Sylvan Lake Library Board, says this isn’t considered a cut to funding.

“This isn’t a ‘cut’; it is a half-payment towards the libraries payments until the budget it done – in October,” Parry said in an email.

Parry says it is being called an “interm supply.”

Ron Sheppard, director of Parkland Regional Library, says they are just waiting it out because they have been in this situation before.

When the New Democratic Party was elected in 2015 they issued 75 per cent of the operating grant and then followed up with the remaining balance after the budget was passed in the fall.

“The new government doesn’t have any kind of budget in place and has no previous budget to sort of set a precedence for so if anything Minister [Kaycee] Madu’s attempting to provide a certain amount of funding before the budget is even provided shows a significant degree of support for public libraries,” said Sheppard.

Parry says the board is grateful the Provincial Government has taken the time and effort to supply part of its yearly funding.

Sheppard does not expect there will not be any cuts made to funding, but if there is the impact will vary to each individual library depending on how much funding they receive from their municipalities.

He explained any funding cut is hard on libraries because small libraries have 50 to 70 per cent of their budgets supported by provincial funding.

“Here at Parkland, just the regional headquarters, 45.5 per cent of our budget comes from the province,” said Sheppard, adding libraries in Edmonton or Calgary will have 10 per cent or less of their budget coming from a provincial grant.

“Public libraries, all of them, are a municipal service at their core and our libraries in Alberta that are part of the system, we put services in them, we network them together, but they’re still autonomous libraries,” Sheppard said.

“You can have some places where very little money is coming from the municipality beyond the minimum required to qualify for provincial grants and so the majority if the money is actually coming from the province so naturally any cut is going to be much more significant.”

Each library develops its own budget and also receives money from its municipality every year.

Parry says finances at the library are always a concern, and budgets are often tight.

She continued to say the board is graetful for all funds recieved from all levels of government, including the funding provided locally by Sylvan Lake Town Council.

“The library also relies strongly on donations, fund-raising and volunteers to support our library’s programs and budget. Our FOSSL group is amazing with their continual support of The Sylvan Lake Municipal Library through their book sales and raffles,” Parry said.

Libraries operate on shoestring budgets, according to Sheppard, and in speculative terms if substantial cuts were made many small libraries would have to question their ability to operate unless individual municipalities provided the money no longer coming in form the provincial government.

If funding cuts were to happen they would hurt public library services in rural Alberta the most, says Sheppard.

“We do not know if their will be cuts but most libraries have taken the initiative to contact their MLA’s and premier to reinforce how efficient we are and how significant libraries are to rural communities,” said Parry.

The provincial budget is due to be passed in October.

“The Town of Sylvan Lake Library is a major community hub in Sylvan Lake and for the surrounding area. The library staff goes over and beyond to provide excellent customer service,” she said

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