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Library wants budget increase to complete projects, address wage issues

The library has requested grant funding of $1,235,932 for next year, an increase of $29,479 from this year. 

The Moose Jaw Public Library is asking city council for an operating budget increase of 2.44 per cent in 2022, which would help it complete three projects that the pandemic derailed in 2020.

The library has requested grant funding of $1,235,932 for next year, an increase of $29,479 from this year. 

One of its goals next year is to have the building be more welcoming by improving the customer service desk and children’s library section and possibly enhancing its rental spaces. 

Other goals focus on lifelong learning and prioritizing the development of technology, and completing a strategic planning cycle for better organizational effectiveness. 

Shevaun Ruby, acting head librarian, spoke to city council on Nov. 24 during a budget discussion meeting. Ruby provided an update about the library’s activities and the reason for its funding request.

In 2020 the library closed and moved to curbside delivery to provide residents with materials, while it shifted resources toward virtual offerings, she said. 

However, 2021 returned to some normalcy as it continued offering curbside services and limited in-person browsing before fully reopening in June. It increased hours by eliminating Sunday closures and adding temporary evening hours while it re-established in-person programming.

“We heard many comments from patrons about how they missed being able to find books for themselves, and we can relate because who doesn’t love the serendipitous nature of in-library browsing?” Ruby said.

Allowing more people into the building was crucial during the summer heatwave, she noted. The library offered people water, air conditioning and the internet. 

The library reintroduced programming for adults and children in the summer, with many outside programs since the weather was great. The organization also teamed up with city hall and Moose Jaw Literacy Network to offer literacy services.

Since many people had “Zoom fatigue,” the library started up several in-person groups, including an avid knitters’ program, teen programs and a new movie club similar to its book club, she continued. It also resumed visiting care homes and providing books to those residents. 

The use of computer stations jumped in July, while staff have noticed that the computers are busy almost every hour of every day during the week, Ruby said. Staff have also helped patrons access their eHealth accounts now that residents need vaccine papers to access most places.  

The visitor count is slowly increasing, but those numbers have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, and while circulation of physical items is increasing, the use of digital items also remains consistent, she continued. 

“With our stacks reopened, with our public computers back and most of our programs in person, we’ve actually been able to have some feelings of normalcy,” stated Ruby. 

The library is asking for a higher-than-normal budget increase because of wage issues, she explained. Next year there are 27 pay periods — 2022 is a leap year — while normally there are 26.2 pay periods; this issue arises every 11 years. 

To address this issue, the library plans to start setting aside money in reserves so it won’t have to ask for more money in 2033, she added.

Councillors Crystal Froese and Heather Eby both commended the library for adapting to the pandemic and its stressful effects.

Froese noted that the library is one of the most used venues in Moose Jaw and offers some of the most diverse programmings.

Eby pointed out that the library became more vital during the past 20 months and adapted its service by pursuing more digital resources and activities.

The next budget discussion meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 8.