Sunday, April 29, 2012

Where to put Alberta Public Libraries

Controversy over which department to locate provincial responsibility for Alberta's public libraries has bubbled over! Library Trustees this weekend, overwhelmingly supported motions to recommend staying in the department of Municipal Affairs.

Trustees Clearly endorsed the support they had received from the department of Municipal Affairs in meetings with the Deputy Minister Paul Whittaker.

Not lost on Trustees or library staff is the fact that moving libraries back to the department of Culture takes them back to a traditionally under funded, low priority department with a bias of responding to the Arts lobby. This is illustrated by the erosion of support for the voluntary sector, community development, heritage resources, museums and archives over the years. The PC Policy Book (page 32) commits to a $10 million increase to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Municipal Affairs is a larger department that has embraced Public Libraries since its move in 2006. Strong support from the DMs, ADM, planning staff have all helped reposition public libraries for the 21st century.

Champions for Public Libraries don't come along every day but Alberta public libraries have had great ones; Horst Schmid, Mary LeMessurier, Gary Mar, Shirley McLellan, Ray Danyluk & HH Lois Hole. The distinguishing factor that all this Champions share is PASSION and a belief that public libraries contribute to a broad scope of the fabric of Alberta life. They knew it was not limited to Culture.
 
In 2008 Minister Danyluk took MLAs on tours of public libraries to blow away old perceptions. He was successful. Clearly we need another tour for the "policy wonks" feeding information to the Premier.

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