Okanagan Regional Library looking at other funding possibilities

ORL board members agreed Wednesday to hire a consultant for a fund development study to see if revenue sources exist beyond taxation.

  • May. 17, 2012 8:00 a.m.

Richard Rolke

Black Press

Local libraries could eventually get into the fundraising business.

Okanagan Regional Library board members agreed Wednesday to hire a consultant for a fund development study to see if revenue sources exist beyond taxation.

Okanagan Regional Library has 29 locations all over the interior of British Columbia, including libraries in Kelowna, Vernon, Salmon Arm, Revelstoke and Golden.

“We feel there are possibilities out there we could be missing,” said director Peter Schierbeck.

“It would be primarily used for capital – new chairs or tables or an addition to the (book) collection).”

Director Mike Macnabb, though, expressed some apprehension that the study could lead to ORL hiring someone to take on fundraising.

“We’re kind of a monopoly and we don’t see others setting up libraries next to us. Why are we doing this?” he said.

However, other board members pointed out that all that’s been approved is a feasibility study and no decision has been made about fundraising.

“We’re not seeking anyone’s funding at this time,” said director Jim Edgson.

A similar view also came from director Lisa Cameron.

“Without a feasibility study, it’s just us talking about what we think is best for the library,” she said.

Lesley Dieno, ORL executive director, believes there are some unknowns about canvassing for money.

“We want to know how much fundraising will cost to do – staff salaries, travel to communities, etc.,” she said.

But she admits there’s a reluctance among the board to keep raising taxes.

“There are a lot of things we could do if we had the money to do it.”

Langley-based Liberty Quest Enterprises has been hired for up to $20,755 to lead the study. However, completing the full process is contingent on Liberty Quest identifying realistic opportunities for fundraising.

“If they can’t find anything for us, they will walk away from the rest of the $20,000,” said director Arlene Arlow.

ORL staff, who are part of the CUPE union, have been negotiating their contracts. The ORL Board released the following statement:

The Okanagan Regional Library Board is comprised of 25 elected municipal and First Nations band councillors, and regional district directors from all of the regions that make up the library district. Our primary responsibility is to ensure taxpayer dollars are used in the most efficient and effective way to provide valuable library services in our communities. We know how important the ORL is in our communities, and recognize the hard work all of ORL staff in providing great service and resources to the public.

The library budget is being stretched on all sides and is always a tough balance. We strive to fund library collections, technology, staffing and branches to keep up with demand and emerging needs while keeping tax levies low for our constituents. The library district makes no “profit”; in order to increase funds in one area of the budget, cuts must be made in other areas.

When we approach employment contracts, we look at market salaries for comparable jobs in our region and offer wages/benefits within the range of other local settlements.  We feel our wage and benefit packages are fair, and this is evidenced by the extremely low turnover we have amongst ORL staff. It is true there haven’t been substantial improvements to the benefits package in 20 years; this is because the package is quite comprehensive and in previous negotiations, CUPE has opted for salary increases over benefits improvements.

The current offer for CUPE members allows for a 4.5% increase over 3 years, with the choice of improvements to benefits or wage increases, or a combination of both. Given the current economic climate, the ORL Board feels this is a just offer – one that would fairly compensate our front-line staff while ensuring there is budget for improvements to technology and services for the benefit of all ORL customers. We understand this is a difficult situation for everyone, and thank the public for their patience during any disruptions to library service.