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Who runs and funds our libraries?

Who runs and funds our libraries?

The public libraries in Gibsons and Sechelt are both Public Library Associations, incorporated under the BC Library Act. They are not operated by local government; they are independently run by volunteer boards elected directly by the members (everyone who holds a current library card). But the two have markedly different histories.

Library services in Gibsons can be traced back to 1914, when the Howe Sound Farmer’s Institute enrolled in the provincial lending library service, which circulated books in rural communities. In 1952, residents incorporated a public library association, and in 1955, thanks to fundraising by the Kiwanis Club, they opened their first library building on Wynne Road.

The current library (opened in 1996) was funded by a public referendum held in 1993 and voted on by the taxpayers of Gibsons, Elphinstone (SCRD Area E) and West Howe Sound (Area F). The vote created two SCRD by-laws—one for the construction of the building, and another to fund its ongoing operations. The library building stands on Town property, but it is owned by the SCRD, which administers the library’s funding.

In Sechelt, the first library was built in 1967 with Canada centennial funding and donations, but the organization did not incorporate legally as a public library association until 1981. The present library, which opened in 1996, was funded through a public referendum passed by Sechelt voters in 1993. The building is owned by the District of Sechelt, which added a floor above for its offices. Crucially the referendum paid for the building, but did not address funding for ongoing operations.

This left the Sechelt library in the position of having to apply each year to both Sechelt council and the SCRD for grants, which neither government was obliged to provide. Battles over funding were often protracted and contentious. In 2004 the association came close to dissolving when the entire board threatened to resign. The funding MOU signed in 2014 was described as the “very first written agreement for funding” by all partners.

The Sechelt library is funded by taxes from Sechelt, Pender Harbour (Area A), Halfmoon Bay (Area B) and the Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD). Library taxes collected in Roberts Creek are split equally between the Gibsons and Sechelt libraries.

The province provides public library funding, but it covers only a small portion (approximately 10 per cent) of the libraries’ operating costs.

Roberts Creek and Pender Harbour both have “reading rooms” that were established in the 1970’s under a federal government literacy initiative that has since been discontinued. They are operated by volunteers and receive some SCRD funding. The reading rooms cannot incorporate as libraries because BC no longer accepts new public library associations.  Donna McMahon

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