Oak Bay council has given its stamp of approval to the Greater Victoria Public Library’s proposed 2012 operating budget.
If approved by its 10 municipal contributors in the region, Oak Bay’s taxpayers would be required to foot a $33,463 or 3.85-per-cent increase over last year’s bill of $868,886, bringing the district’s total share for library services in 2012 to $902,349.
Last year Oak Bay taxpayers were billed $868,886.
While recognizing the financial pinch increasingly felt by municipalities, library officials say they are doing what they can to stretch their financial resources.
“We really have cut to the bone,” Greg Bunyan, vice-chair of the library board, told Oak Bay council Monday night.
Municipalities are being asked to chip in $13,968,758 towards the library’s $15,648,208 total operating budget.
Adding to the fiscal challenges are declining fine revenues and provincial funding.
“We implemented a system to get books back, which has been good for getting books back, but has reduced the amount of money we get because books are getting back,” Bunyan said. “So that’s a reality we’ve had to live with.”
That, in turn, has impacted the library’s ability to acquire new materials for its collection at a time when library usage rates have hit record highs.
The Oak Bay branch has the second highest usage rate next to the Central branch in downtown Victoria, council heard.
“The Greater Victoria Public Library system has one of the highest per-capita usage rates in the country, and over 79 per cent of the population of Greater Victoria has library cards,” Bunyan said, noting that more than six million items were circulated last year.
Sunday service, first offered by all 10 municipal branches in the region in 2011, is an added expense, but one library officials are loathe to reconsider to save money.
“We value your support in that regard because I think it’s an important factor for Oak Bay,” Bunyan said.
In addition to demands for books, card holders are turning to the library system for literacy support, digital access to information, author readings, public-use computers, language materials, workshops, e-books and home delivery of materials, among other services.
“You also prove that you can diversify and adapt to a changing world and not all organizations that are longstanding are able to do that so well,” said Coun. Cairine Green. “I think you’re a model for adaptation.”
The library has made great strides in recent years raising its profile, necessary for users to better understand the “depth and breadth” of available services, said Coun. Pam Copley, who sat on the library board as Oak Bay’s representative for many years.
“The good news is that you have more visitation,” she said. “The bad news is that you still don’t have quite the resources to accommodate that.”
Library officials say they are organizing their efforts to identify new revenue streams and fundraising initiatives to raise much-needed funds to bolster library coffers.
Oak Bay is the first of 10 municipalities to approve the library’s proposed operating budget and five-year financial plan. Municipalities are being asked for their approval by May 1.