By Cole Parkinson
With tons of member municipalities in southern Alberta, a delegation from Chinook Arch Regional Library System has been making its way to councils to give each an update.
During Municipal District of Taber’s regular council meeting on Sept. 13, Robin Hepher, CEO of Chinook Arch Regional Library System, was in council chambers to provide some background on the group and answer any potential questions.
“This is purely just an informational presentation. After every municipal election, I like to get out and visit all of our member councils — which there are now 41 — so, it takes a little while to get through all of them,” stated Hepher. “Our primary clientele are the libraries, so we exist mostly to support and serve the member libraries. We’ve been around for 30 years and this is actually our 30th anniversary.”
Hepher explained to council that every municipality that can join Chinook Arch has done so. This leaves the system with a wide net of users and it benefits each municipality quite a bit. He also explained how Chinook Arch and the provincial government work together.
“Every municipality within our region that can join the system has joined the system. So, we have what we call system completion and we’re actually the first library system in the province to achieve that,” continued Hepher. “We are considered primarily a municipal service, so the provincial government that oversees activities is the public library services branch — it’s a branch of Municipal Affairs. Even though there is some provincial involvement at the legislative level and at a funding level, it is considered primarily a municipal service and there are no provincial bodies saying any municipality has to operate a library or fund library services. It’s all considered enabling legislation.”
With all municipalities taking part in Chinook Arch, it does bring more benefits, including sharing of material across the entire system. And thanks to the full complement of municipalities, Chinook Arch’s funding is more easily managed as it’s spread out instead of relying on a handful.
“Luckily, municipal councils generally do see the value in offering public library services to the residents. Personally, (I think) it’s one of the best public dollars you can spend for your community because of the variety of services that it offers to such a broad swath of your population,” stated Hepher. “Our revenue is based on a per capita fee, so there’s a fee that is set by the Chinook Arch Library Board and in order for that fee to take effect, it also has to be ratified by member councils. So, two-thirds of councils representing two-thirds of the total population served, have to be OK with the fee. That’s how we arrive at that.”
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