Reduction in hours at three local libraries to see them open for 15 hours per week

MULGRAVE: After 14 years of a fixed funding model, the Eastern Counties Regional Libraries (ECRL) is entering into a new library funding formula to ensure the funds its receives from each municipality are serving the library needs of that municipality’s population.

ECRL’S Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Laura Emery indicted that a required funding alignment for their 2021-22 budget that has resulted in service reductions.

“If everyone is going to have the opportunity to benefit from in-person library services somewhere near their community, then library open hours need to correspond to the population and tax base that generates the funding,” Emery told The Reporter. “We are adjusting library open hours to reflect this. However, we understand it is difficult for people experiencing the negative impacts of the funding alignment.”

Following an in-depth examination of their current practices for distributing the funding received from municipal units, Emery suggested this revealed large populations, who are the source of significant funding for the ECRL, are being underserved.

Frontline services will receive increased support in Inverness and Richmond counties, while the services will remain at the current level in the Mulgrave and Port Hawkesbury area.

To correspond with their municipal contributions, the services offered at three ECRL branches will be proportional to the population supporting them.

Beginning April 6, the Canso Library will be open Wednesdays to Fridays, 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.; the Cyril Ward Memorial Library in Guysborough will be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.; and the Sherbrooke Library will open Wednesdays to Fridays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

“We understand this is upsetting for library users of the Sherbrooke, Guysborough and Canso libraries,” Emery said. “Historically, the municipal contributions from these areas have not been enough to cover the costs of the full open hours at these libraries.”

Having provided the affected municipal units with the information about how much it would cost to maintain historic levels of service, the ECRL have also offered if a municipality chooses to enhance their contribution for its library services, they would be happy to provide corresponding enhancement of services.

Valuing all of their funders and their contributions, Emery said the ECRL will continue to provide the best service we can to the region within our fiscal realities.

“At $1.2 million, ECRL has the second smallest annual operating budget of all library regions in Nova Scotia and has the largest geographic area to serve,” she said. “For comparison, neighbouring Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library has an annual operating budget of over $1.7 million, serving a geography less than half the size of ECRL’s.”

The CEO assured after this difficult adjustment period, library open hours will be stable for the next four years.

ECRL provides an umbrella of services to meet the needs of users across the largest geographic library region in Nova Scotia. In addition to staff assistance, internet and computer access, and browsing collections offered at ECRL library branches, their borrow by mail service and digital lending services are available to everyone with an ECRL card.