IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the AUMA request the Government of Alberta review the Libraries Act and Libraries Regulations through a comprehensive public consultation process.
WHEREAS libraries act as cultural and community centres for municipalities and play an important role in providing Albertans with equitable access to information and the arts;
WHEREAS the Libraries Act provides the legal framework for public library services in Alberta;
WHEREAS current provisions in the Libraries Act and associated regulations hinder the ability of municipalities to fund and deliver sustainable library services, especially in rural areas.
Public libraries are a municipal service as set out in the Libraries Act. Municipalities may choose to provide library services at the local level or at the regional level. At the local level, a municipal council may pass a bylaw under the Libraries Act to establish a municipal library board. Municipalities may also enter into agreements with up to 2 additional municipalities to form an intermunicipal library board to provide public library service to their citizens.
Regional library systems are established under the Libraries Act when municipalities in an area agree to jointly provide library system services. There are seven library system boards in the province. Library system services provide professional and technical support to public libraries within the system area so that even the smallest library has access to advice and assistance, along with the cost effectiveness and synergies made possible by working through a larger unit.
Section 19 of the Libraries Regulation requires a library system board to employ one graduate of a postgraduate library program (i.e. a professional librarian) for every 25,000 people that the library system serves. This calculation excludes the population of any municipality with a population over 10,000 in which a municipal library or intermunicipal library employs a professional librarian. As result, library systems that serve a high total population, but do not serve any municipalities with populations over 10,000, are required to hire more professional librarians than other library systems that serve smaller total populations.
For example, the Northern Lights Library System serves (NLLS) 174,000 people in its geographic area but does not have any urban areas with populations over 10,000 in which a municipal library or intermunicipal library employs a professional librarian. The NLLS must therefore employ seven professional librarians as per the Libraries Regulation. In comparison, the Marigold Library System serves a total population of 300,000 people but contains several municipal and intermunicipal libraries that are required to hire professional librarians. Accordingly, these populations are excluded from the calculation under Section 19. As a result, the Marigold Library System is only required to hire four professional librarians, based on an adjusted population of 100,000.
Small, rural municipalities face a number of challenges in recruiting professional librarians, from both a budgetary and human resources perspective. This affects the ability of library systems to deliver quality programs and services to the populations they serve. It is therefore recommended that the Libraries Act and Regulation be reviewed to ensure all Albertans have equitable access to library services, and library services are sustainably funded and delivered.
Minister of Municipal Affairs – November 18, 2020
Ministry Staff are developing a plan for engaging key partners in a targeted “red tape reduction” review of the Libraries Act and regulations. More information will be forthcoming in the next few months.
AUMA is following up with Municipal Affairs to seek more details on the planned review of the Libraries Act.