“Usually, after a municipal election, we try and go out to all of the municipal councils that are members of Chinook Arch and just give an overview of how your membership in Chinook Arch fits into library service in the region,” said Macdonald, adding it takes a long time with 39 municipal members.
Library services in Alberta start with local libraries, said Macdonald, plus there are also regional library systems, a public library services branch (PLSB) which manages library legislation and in addition there is a collaborative organization called TAL: The Alberta Library, which all of the public and academic libraries work together to share services and the Alberta Library Trustees Association (ALTA), which deals with issues of governance and advocacy for public libraries.
“The key element in library service is a local library for most municipalities and it’s the front line of service. The Chinook Arch, as a regional library, provides service to the local library rather than to the public,” she noted, during her presentation to council.
In Lethbridge County, there are three libraries — Coaldale, City of Lethbridge and Picture Butte.
“Lethbridge County gives Chinook Arch a rural fee, which we transfer to two of those libraries to provide service on behalf of the county,” said Macdonald, which are the Coaldale and Picture Butte libraries.
“The City of Lethbridge provides service as well to county residents but they don’t get any fee or reimbursement,” she said, adding that’s the process to provide service through an agreement with Lethbridge County, which is a letter of understanding that Chinook Arch will take $2.72 per capita, a rural service fee, and give it to Coaldale and Picture Butte combined with additional provincial funding.
Macdonald said the Village of Nobleford is now looking into the possibility of establishing a library.
“Then the question will be — should they also get some funding from the county to help with running their library? It makes a huge difference,” said Macdonald, especially in regards to the funding the Picture Butte and Coaldale libraries presently receive.
Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey asked Macdonald how Chinook Arch arrives at the funding the regional library system receives from the county and if Chinook Arch was to add another library would that mean funding would be combined with other local libraries in the area.
“Historically, Lethbridge County made that decision. There’s two pieces to the funding you give us. There’s the municipal fee for the regional library system and that fee is arrived at by the Chinook Arch Library Board and it’s set by the budget and then it’s given out to all our councils for approval. This year that fee is $6.99 — that comes to Chinook Arch and gets spent by Chinook Arch. Then we have our rural service fee which is $2.72, that amount was set by the County of Lethbridge in the late 1980s and it hasn’t actually changed since then, so you would have to decide that if you were going to support Nobleford library, are you going to take some of it away from the libraries that are currently getting it or are you going to add more money,” said Macdonald.
“That’s not a decision that has to be made right now because they don’t have a library.”
Coun. Steve Campbell asked Macdonald if Nobleford would be part of Chinook Arch if the village had a library in the future.
“That would be probable but I don’t know –— they could. They could choose not to be part of Chinook Arch but then they couldn’t have any of the services,” said Macdonald, and they wouldn’t get any of the funding.
Hickey asked Macdonald if Chinook Arch funding would increase from the provincial government if there was another library.
“Not for the county. The funding that comes to Chinook Arch, as an operating grant would increase but the funding that comes to Chinook Arch for distribution to libraries in the county is based on the county population. It’s not based on Picture Butte or Coaldale or Lethbridge population, so it wouldn’t change that rural amount,” said Macdonald.