At the Jan. 6 meeting of Vauxhall town council, a delegation from Chinook Arch headed by associate director Robin Thiessen Hepher was questioned by Coun. Russ Norris if there has been any push in the past to bring school jurisdictions on board with the regional library system.
“We’ve had some discussions with Horizon School Division,” said Thiessen Hepher. “The difficulty that we’ve encountered with the schools, is that their budgets are very school-based. We do things on a regional basis. When we talk about library service, we envision bringing the school in as a group, so they can participate in sharing and that sort of stuff.”
Chinook Arch provides member libraries with access to over 900,000 items and 34 other libraries, and includes access to HD videoconferencing, downloadable eBooks and audiobooks, inter-library loans, and digital newspaper and magazine resources.
Thiessen Hepher noted a major stumbling block towards integrating a school jurisdiction is the nature of individual school budgeting through divisions.
“The way it works is, they would almost need each individual school to approve it in their budget, and join individually. So there hasn’t really been much traction in that area.”
For member libraries, Chinook Arch also provides consulting services, training and professional development, and IT help desk service, and delivery of items from library to library. A current member, Vauxhall Public Library maintains a measure of autonomy, being responsible for local front line service, appointment of a local library board, establishment of a local funding level, and the appointment of a representative to the regional board.
The added cost for individual schools to integrate into the Chinook Arch system probably represents the most difficulty in promoting the benefits of being part of a regional library system.
“It would largely represent a new cost for a lot of the schools,” said Thiessen Hepher. “I’ve presented to Horizon — they decided they weren’t interested. One of our long-time board members is chair of the Horizon School Division, and I think that she would like to see that kind of thing happen. But at this point, each library has its own software that they manage — it would represent a significant new cost for new schools, and new school districts. I also think it would represent a significant increase in service as well, but at this time it doesn’t seem to be in the cards, especially given the current climate for K to 12 education, the money doesn’t seem to be flowing necessarily from the province.”
Changes due to technology and other factors in the past 25 years have led to many school jurisdictions in the province placing less emphasis on the institution of school-based libraries, according to Thiessen Hepher.
“As you know, school libraries are becoming less and less of a focus. Schools across the province are putting less resources into school libraries, and school library staff.”
In 2012, Vauxhall residents borrowed 9,580 items from other libraries in the region, and loaned 2,031 items.