Library asking Prince Albert council for additional funding

Jodi Schellenberg
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Since it is budget season at City Hall, the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library is asking for more help this year.

The library is asking for an additional $550,000 capital grant to help cover infrastructure expenses the aging building is facing. The building was completed in 1974 and a lot of the infrastructure has not been updated since.

“We have a lot of activity in here and we are asking for funding to do some maintenance and upgrades to keep the place on its feet,” library director Alex Juorio said.

Things like doorknobs, flooring and service counters need to be upgraded, many furnishing are worn out and need to be replaced and they would like to move to LED lighting in the entire building.

“We have observed that we can benefit from large energy savings by switching to LED lights and we would like to continue with that throughout the building,” Juorio said. “We have done the area over by the children’s part of the library but we would like to move across all the building with the same fixtures. We need money for that.”

There are also other parts of the library that need to be changed as well.

“Some of the other requests have to do with ongoing restructuring we are doing as part of our strategic plan available on our website, which involved relocating all public services to the main floor of the building so we don’t have to operate two desks in the building,” Juorio said.  “We have done that change but there is more cleanup to do on the staff side still -- we are kind of camped out in the basement.”

Needing the upgrade the infrastructure in the building became more apparent throughout the last year, Juorio said.

“We have had some adventures with the building over the last year,” he said. “Earlier this year we had a toilet that leaked and we discovered the control valve that supplied water to that toilet was jammed so we couldn’t turn the water off to the toilet.”

When they traced the pipe back further, they found the control valve for the whole section of the building wasn’t working either.

“Then we went to the main water shut off just past the meter and found that didn’t work either,” Juorio said. “We asked for a curb side shut off and that didn’t work either. If that toilet had failed, there would have been flooding in the building because there was no way to shut the water off.”

He said the city did immediately react and helped by digging up the street in front of the building to shut off water to the street. Then the library was able to work on the plumbing issues.

“That is just one example of how the building infrastructure is getting dated,” he said.

Juorio said they have been requesting the $550,000 capital grant for a couple years now but haven’t received it.

“If we have that money, we will be able to enter it into a future planning process and plan for upgrades as time goes on,” Juorio said.

The rest of the library budget -- consisting of library collections, building operations and personnel -- will go up by about five per cent.

“Library collections is the smallest component of the library budget and we are trying to keep it to match,” Juorio said. “We add to it a little at a time so there is a two per cent increase on that piece.”

The building operations piece is a projected guess of what the cost will be for utilities and contracts, such as custodial. It also has about a two per cent increase.

“The biggest change is in the personnel for increased staff costs as we hope to add a part-time position,” Juorio said. “Then there are staffing costs that go up year to year -- benefits, pensions, negotiating salaries increases.”

Without the capital grant aspect, the budget is not increasing a great deal, he said.

“The other costs are staying in line with the old,” Juorio said.

Most of the library funding comes from the city, with the exception of some book acquisitions through the Wapiti Regional Library.

“They provides services on behalf of all member branches like book acquisitions and cataloguing and we also receive resource sharing grants because we are the biggest branch in the region and net lender of materials,” Juorio said.

Otherwise all the funding is through the city, due to the Public Library Act in the province.

The $550,000 request isn’t as large as many might think, Juorio said.

“In the deposition, I pointed out that even with the $550,000 request for capital, the library grant request is $5.45 per month per capita, which is a pretty low price tag for an entity that has 300,000 plus visits per year and 2,000 web hits per day,” Juorio said.

The library is a destination for many people in the community, he said.

“Having it look appealing, nice, new and fresh keeps people coming in,” Juorio said. “We had over 313,000 visits last year and that wears a track in the carpet pretty fast.”

Studies have show that keeping facilities up-to-date also reduces crime, he said.

“We have done things like Crime Prevention through Environmental Design studies that clearly demonstrate that a better maintained facility is less susceptible to vandalism. If you keep it looking nice, people help you to keep the facility nice as well.”

There are a number of upgrades and replacements that need to happen at the library. Some of these are:

• replace the flooring the adult area

• paint in all areas except children’s area

• replace interior doorknobs and locks

• replace projector in theatre

• replace and repairing theatre seats

• add additional plugins for computer users

• replace rear doors

• relocate staff room from the main floor

• refurbish lower floor office space

• replace service counter, staff desks

• add digital thermostats

• install LED lighting

• update elevator

• replace worn and dated furniture

• add ladder with external cage for roof access

• add roof anchor points the secure people working on roof

Organizations: Prince Albert council, Wapiti Regional Library, Public Library Environmental Design

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