AMHERST – It appears as though Cumberland County’s library system has dodged another bullet.
Days after announcing it would be cutting hours at five of its seven libraries for budgetary reasons, Cumberland Public Libraries chief librarian Denise Corey said the region is receiving another one-time grant of $52,667 from the province to allow for time to work on a long-term funding strategy.
“This is very good news for the library, it means that we don’t have to reduce branch hours and it also means that the same staff that I was telling two weeks ago that their hours were being cut have been given a reprieve,” Corey said.
The libraries received a similar grant last year.
Corey said the funding still doesn’t address the long-term funding issues for public libraries, it does allow the library to continue offering services to Cumberland County residents.
“We’ve bought two more years and we hope that before those two years expire that we’ll have a new funding model. Otherwise, in two years we’ll be going back down this road,” said Corey. “At some point, unless they change the formula, which they are looking at, we will have to cut hours because we can’t sustain what we’re doing.”
Currently, public libraries in Nova Scotia are taking part in a core services review and there is indication from the government that the review and resulting funding formula changes should happen in the next fiscal year.
Earlier this week, the deputy minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage Tracey Tawell told the legislature’s public accounts committee said Nova Scotia’s public libraries are receiving a three per cent budget increase – of $474,000.
While she has been critical of the government’s reluctance to increase funding over the past several years, Corey is appreciative of the one-time grant.
“I have to say how appreciative I am because they could’ve just ignored us or done nothing,” Corey said. “I know the government has a lot on its plate right now, but they gave us money and saved us from making some difficult decisions.”
Two weeks ago, Corey announced the library’s board of directors had decided to reduce hours at five branches, including Oxford, Springhill, Amherst, Parrsboro and Pugwash effective June 1. Libraries in Advocate Harbour and River Hebert were going to maintain their hours because cutting them would impact employee’s benefits packages.
She said the cuts would have saved approximately $13,000 year.
Since 2010, Cumberland County’s libraries have seen a 1.3 per cent funding increase, but inflation has increased by 12 per cent. The library system, she said, has already cut as much as possible.
The province provides $14.4 million t its nine library regions and 80 libraries. In Cumberland County, funding is also received from the Municipality of Cumberland and the Town of Amherst.
Last year, the Cumberland Public Libraries saw an overall increase of four per cent in circulation, a 4.2 per cent increase in holds, a 4.3 per cent increase in reference questions asked and a 42 per cent increase in program attendance.