In his letter to the editor entitled Library deal for $1 doesn’t make sense, MLA Joe Anglin makes some good points regarding the need for financial responsibility and some other comments relating to library service that require a fuller explanation. Anglin refers to the Alberta Public Library Standards where he states 1,500 square feet of space is the minimum required to provide essential service to a town the size of Rimbey.
The actual document is titled Standards for Member Libraries within Alberta’s Regional Library Systems and dates from 2003. The numbers quoted by Anglin refer to the most basic level of service. In the current Standards and Best Practices for Public Libraries in Alberta, published in 2010 by Alberta Municipal Affairs, the average library facility serving a population between 1,201 and 3,000 is 327.6 square metres or 3,526.3 square feet . However, Rimbey Municipal Library’s space needs extend beyond the municipal population because it is one of two public libraries that serve the 8,856 residents of Ponoka County.
Dividing the county population evenly between Ponoka Jubilee Library and Rimbey Municipal Library (which is how Ponoka County funds library service), increases each library’s service population by 4,428. This raises Rimbey’s service population to 6,806. According to the current standards, the average size for a library serving populations between 5,001 and 10,000 is 422.3 square metres or 4,545.6 square feet. Note that this number is just the average size. Depending on how many county patrons use the library, how much programming space is needed and how many computers there are, space requirements could be even higher. And that is just to serve the current population.
In planning for libraries, the library board and municipal council must take into account projected population increases over the next 10 to 20 years. Renovating a library to meet current service population levels would be very short sighted from a fiduciary standpoint.
In his letter, Anglin refers to three other libraries in or near Rimbey, all of which are school libraries. While students and teachers may benefit from these collections, school libraries are not open to the general public. Moreover, schools are not required to loan their items to the public through interlibrary lending. This makes the Rimbey Municipal Library the only practical option available to residents.
In 2012, Rimbey Municipal Library circulated 33,807 items to local and Parkland Regional Library system patrons. In addition, Rimbey patrons borrowed 8,174 items from libraries outside the regional system and the Rimbey library lent 10,010 items to libraries outside the region.
There were 393 program sessions with 6,244 people attending. The quality and range of programming offered by the Rimbey library is applauded throughout the province. In 2012, 37,674 patrons visited the library in person and 10,258 visited the library’s website. Taken collectively, Rimbey Municipal Library is one of the busiest libraries in the Parkland Regional Library system.
From the perspective of the many library users in the area, the Town of Rimbey council deserves much credit for providing expansion space for the heavily used Rimbey Municipal Library at an affordable price. By providing their support, council is clearly in touch with their electorate and seeking to meet their community’s needs.
Ron Sheppard, director
Parkland Regional Library