A recent letter to this newspaper outlined the issue with Sturgeon County funding to the Town of Morinville Community Library. While Keith’s arguments are valid, they focus on only one part of the funding issues. To support Keith and the Library, here are several other arguments that should be cause for Town Council and Morinville residents to reconsider the funding it gives to our Library.

First, consider the services it provides. When the Morinville Job Centre was closed, the Library was quick to step up to fill the void. The Library Manager, Isabelle Cramp and Board Chair both pitched a strong case that this was a crucial service that needed to be kept in town for residents who couldn’t make it to either Edmonton or Westlock. To do this, they invested some of their hard earned fundraising dollars for lap tops that are also used for other programs.

Second, consider the number of people who walk through the Library’s doors. One of the Library’s key mantras has always been “We’re more than just books.” The Library has become both a community and information gathering point. Don’t know where the Chamber of Commerce office is? Need to use a computer because you can’t afford one or yours died? Want to learn how to write, knit or speak English? Need a room to hold a birthday party or watch a family movie? Go to the Library for all of these services and more.

Third, it is a small number of very tired volunteers and a core group of loyal and dedicated staff that have kept the Library functioning and financially healthy for quite some time. The Library’s fundraising arm, Friends of the Morinville Library, is a good example of their dedication. Many Board members and Library staff are currently, or have been, members of the Friends at one time or another. This small group and the Library staff have done an excellent job of raising money to buy or replace essential equipment during the 2013 renovations, fund activities such as the Summer Reading Program, or help with day-to-day expenses that help the Library function. They have done more than their part to try and keep the Library running at full capacity with the money they have been given.

Finally, the heart of the library has been its dedicated and loyal staff. Most people likely don’t know that the Library’s employees do not work for the Town of Morinville, so they are not compensated nowhere near as well. A big reason for the large increase to the Library’s budget in 2016 was to account for the move to the province’s minimum wage to $15 in the next couple of years. Also, given the turnover of staff that the Library has experienced, the Board wanted to try to keep staff, rather than continually training new people. This makes good business sense, allows for continuity and provides better service.

The main reason I resigned from the Board in September was to pursue other personal interests. However, another, probably self-conscious, reason that I have not shared until now was that I saw this coming. Having spent seven or so of the last ten years as a part of the Library Board and a year stint with the Friends, I wasn’t ready to help dismantle important parts of that work. With the economic downturn, fundraising would be even more difficult than in the past, and I simply didn’t have the time that it needed.

Our Town Council has many difficult decisions ahead of it: a new recreation centre, town services, fire and police are all draws for scarce financial resources. But if you look at what the Library provides for both Town and County residents and the people who provide it, it is more than worthy of being fully funded. I think that the Library’s funding should be revisited in the New Year.

Respectfully,

Brent Henry,
Resident of Morinville and Former Library Board Member

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