Investments in libraries pay long-term dividends in having an economically stronger, more socially inclusive community
OTTAWA (May 15, 2009) Representatives from the Canadian Library Association (CLA) today announced the urgent need for further investment in public libraries in order to build and/or upgrade their infrastructure.
No matter what the current economic situation is, Canadians know that they can get information, services and assistance they need from their public library.
“In our current economic situation, public libraries have become increasingly popular places for Canadians to come in and enjoy the library’s free resources,” said Ken Roberts, CLA president. “Whether it is surfing online for fun, borrowing DVDs or brushing up on résumé skills, people are flocking to libraries in the thousands to take advantage of a place that is primarily free.”
Across Canada, most cities are reporting large increases in their services and programs, not to mention items being borrowed by the millions. For example, in Calgary alone in 2008, borrowing was up by 1.1 million for a total of 15.4 million – an increase of 7.7% from 2007. Calgary’s 17 branch libraries were the second busiest in the country after Toronto, and sixth busiest in North America.
Key 2008 Ottawa statistics include an increase in library visits by 12%, an increase in usage of library items by almost 23%, and increase in the number of visits to the library’s online resources such as the website and online reference questions by 14%.
“This increase in usage is primarily due to the fact that Canadians are realizing that they can borrow books, DVDs, CDs and video games,” added Roberts. “In addition, if for any reason patrons need to cancel a magazine subscription or their internet, they can always come into the public library and enjoy these things for free.”
Not only are public libraries beneficial for entertainment and leisure purposes, they also provide essential resources to help stimulate Canada’s national economy. Public libraries play an important role in assisting people with literacy skills, résumé creation, job location and application, and re-education opportunities.
Applying for jobs via paper applications and résumés is becoming less common. Employers now rely more on online job applications and résumés sent by e-mail. The public libraries can provide help for people unfamiliar with computers for this process.
“Many of Canada’s busiest public libraries are reporting that their job-hunting resources are the most sought after service,” commented Kelly Moore, CLA Executive Director. “As an example, at London’s public library website, the ‘searching for work’ link was used 75,485 times in 2008. It is the site’s most popular link.”
As the library’s services and resources continue to rise in demand, essential programs are in extreme danger of being cut, due to the lack of federal funding. In addition to needing more library employees to keep up with the quick-moving pace of library visitors, some public libraries are in need of the physical space and technological infrastructure upgrades.
CLA underscored the need for an expanded role for the federal government in supporting libraries, including:
Improved and expanded federal investment in broadband and ensuring access to broadband via libraries
Improved long-term funding for libraries through programs such as the Community Access Program (CAP) and infrastructure spending
Copyright legislation that controls costs for libraries and ensures availability of material for the public
“Further investment in public libraries is urgently needed, as they are key components of communities’ master plans,” added Moore. “With more investment, public libraries will be able to increase access to the physically disabled, become more energy-efficient, and incorporate the latest information and communications technology”.
The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques (CLA) is Canada’s largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy.
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