The Ontario government put an end to a 20-year funding freeze for Ontario libraries at the end of last month. The release of Ontario’s 2018 Budget on March 28 included a new major investment of $79 million over three years for Ontario Public and First Nations Libraries, as well as the Digital Public Library.
The budget increases funding for Public and First Nations Libraries by $17 million each year, over the next three years. This is a 50% increase over the amount that was fixed in 1996. Another $28 million will be dedicated towards the creation of the Digital Public Library, a digital centralized resource that will provide all Ontarians, regardless of location, with digital content, such as e-books, e-learning, music, audiobooks, research databases, special collections, and accessible and alternative format materials across a common web platform.
“Ontario’s libraries are for everyone. This investment recognizes their significant contribution to learning, training, cultural vitality, and digital access for all Ontarians, regardless of where they live,” says Kerry Badgley, president of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) and board member of the North Grenville Public Library.
Librarian, Mary-Kate Laphen of the Merrickville Public Library (MPL), says this is a good news story for small libraries like MPL. “It’s really surprising,” she says, admitting that she is a little bit stunned. “All libraries will see an increase in funding.”
According to Mary-Kate, this means that less of the burden will be falling to the municipality and its tax base to support the Library. More of the costs, which have been increasing steadily every year, will be paid for by the province, she says. “I don’t know when it’s going to be implemented, but the fact that it’s gone through is a good thing.”
Ontario also revealed that they will be investing and additional $500 million over three years to expand broadband connectivity in rural, First Nations, and northern communities. This will ensure that everyone in Ontario has access to the resources that will be made available by the Digital Public Library.
The Federation of Ontario Public Libraries, an advocacy group for libraries in Ontario, is very pleased with this financial commitment, as they have been lobbying the government to end the funding freeze for quite some time. Their next goal is to ensure that all schools in Ontario have a funded and resourced library.