The District of Kent will be paying an extra $14,467 to keep the Agassiz Library running, after library card data showed fewer Harrison Hot Springs residents were checking out books.
The Fraser Valley Regional Library board approved its 2021 budget in December of last year, choosing a 1.97 per cent increase in overall spending, and a two per cent increase in purchases of books and other borrowing materials. This budget increase won’t be enough to maintain per capita book purchases across the region, which covers libraries from Delta and Port Coquitlam to Hope.
The total increase to the FVRL budget, around $534,500, will be shared between the 13 member municipalities and two regional districts on a per capita basis. However, the District of Kent will actually be seeing a 4.38 per cent increase in its spending on the library — a higher portion that many others in the library system.
According to FVRL’s director of finance, Nancy Gomerich, this increase comes from two factors: Harrison’s library use and IT costs.
In 2020, Harrison residents took out fewer books from the Agassiz library than they had in the past. The library is able to track where residents are from when they take out physical books and other materials from the library.
(FVRL isn’t able to track that data when it comes to online resources, so Harrison residents borrowing ebooks or using library databases wouldn’t show up in this calculation.)
In 2019, close to 76 per cent of all library transactions from Harrison residents took place at the Agassiz Library, with other transactions taking place in Chilliwack and Hope, and nominal amounts at other libraries. However, in 2020 that decreased to 71.5 per cent.
“Between 2020 and 2021, we are projecting a bit of a dip simply because people are not travelling as much between different places, especially from Harrison,” Scott Hargrove, FVRL CEO, said.
Gomerich noted that there is often a fluctuation in Harrison’s library use, and it has dipped down to 71 per cent at the Agassiz Library in the past.
Because Harrison Hot Springs doesn’t have its own library, the village pays a “credit cost centre” to the FVRL that is shared among the libraries Harrison residents frequent. For 2021, Harrison will be paying around $70,000 to the FVRL for library services.
If Harrison’s use of the Agassiz Library had stayed the same as 2019, Kent would have received around $52,920 to help pay for its library services. Because the usage went down, Kent will be receiving nearly $3,000 less.
In addition, the Agassiz Library will be responsible for a higher proportion of the FVRL’s Information Technology Cost Centre charges.
In 2020, all libraries in the FVRL got rid of computers that had been used for children’s gaming. According to Gomerich, the removal came after a review of children’s computing services, and was followed by the introduction of a number of cheaper and “attractive to kids” iPads at all libraries, including the Agassiz Library.
Because the Agassiz Library didn’t have any children’s gaming computers to remove to begin with, Kent’s portion of IT costs went up.
The total FVRL fee for the District of Kent will be $353,322 for 2021, an increase of 4.38 per cent ($14,467) from 2020. If Harrison’s use and IT costs had remained the same, Gomerich said, the fee increase would have been very close to the FVRL average of 1.97 per cent.
The $353,322 member assessment fee doesn’t include the library building costs, which the District of Kent is also responsible for. These costs include things like janitorial services, electricity, heat, phone services, building maintenance and furniture purchases.
Both the member assessment and the library building costs will be paid by Kent taxpayers through their municipal taxes, as they are every year.
-with files from Matthew Claxton