Lack of grants puts pressure on Haliburton County
By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 3, 2016
The Haliburton County Public Library will be looking for new forms of revenue moving into 2017.
The municipality’s department heads and county councillors held preliminary budget discussions on Oct. 31, senior staff going over priorities and pressures in their departments as council prepares to get to work on the 2017 budget.
More than just a repository for books, in recent years the library has become a hub for many types of services, including digital.
“The library continues to fill that role and evolve it” library CEO Bessie Sullivan told councillors, explaining that while many county residents may own computers, a lack of reliable, broadband Internet in parts of the county means many residents still head to library branches for reliable access to the Internet.
While the library has secured a $120,000 operating grant to help with its expenses for 2017, Sullivan said keeping up with provincial criteria means constant, detailed record keeping.
“We have to go through very rigorous data collection,” she said, explaining this includes keeping track of financials, materials circulation and a technological inventory that includes demonstrating what types of social media the library is using to promote itself.
Sullivan said the provincial government’s Ontario Cultural Strategy is also putting pressure on libraries, asking them to become community hubs providing an ever-expanding number of digital services and constantly build capacity.
“We meet requirements, we do not exceed them,” Sullivan said.
While Sullivan said the province has indicated it’s reviewing funding for rural libraries in particular, there’s been no indication yet of what that might look like.
“We can’t be what they want us to be if they won’t help us,” said Algonquin Highlands Reeve and County Warden Carol Moffatt. “Unless we kick at the status quo, we will continue to fund the gaps left by the other levels of government.”
Library funding from upper levels of government has been flat lining for years and some services that were once funded by them, such as public access computers at the county’s library branches, are now funded entirely by the municipality.
Declining numbers of grants will be an issue for most departments, county chief administrative officer Mike Rutter told councillors.
So far in 2016, the county is down $300,000 in grants compared to last year.
The county is requesting a delegation with provincial ministers regarding library concerns at this winter’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference.