Council strikes uneasy compromise on library budget

A proposed boost in operational funding for city libraries proved surprisingly controversial during city council’s week of budget deliberations.

After a lengthy debate Friday, city councillors ultimately compromised on a solution to provide 50 per cent of the proposed funding boost requested for libraries, amounting to $1.4 million to cover inflationary costs.

Calgary Public Library CEO Bill Ptacek tried to make the case to council that city libraries are at risk of becoming “worn out” as the service expands and sees an increasing number of visitors.

“There’s been an incredible investment and a lot of work into making this library system more relevant,” Ptacek said. “People are really turning to the library in numbers they’ve never done before.

“Our libraries are really getting worn out, quite frankly.”

Ptacek said approximately 683,000 Calgarians now have library cards. But some councillors felt the service has received enough money in recent years and didn’t require further increases.

“I fully understand the demands but there are also demands on everywhere else,” said Coun. Ward Sutherland, who brought forward the initial motion to deny the boost in funding.

Sutherland said the library was previously awarded additional operating dollars to manage costs at the new branches, including the new Central Library.

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi pointed out the library wouldn’t be able to cover the cost of inflation without some additional monies.

In response, Coun. Joe Magliocca brought forward the proposal to restore half of the required funding.

Council voted 8-6 in favour of the compromise.

Voting against were councillors Jeromy Farkas, Ward Sutherland, George Chahal, Sean Chu, Diane Colley-Urquhart and Peter Demong.

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