By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Independent
Members of the Stettler Parkland Library appeared as a delegation before the County of Stettler council on Nov. 10th, to discuss successes for the year and the 2021 budget.
The delegation from the library consisted of Jane Skocdopole, the Stettler Library board chair, Barb Gano, the board treasurer and Rhonda O’Neill, the library manager.
The trio appeared virtually before the County of Stettler council, discussing operational and funding issues that the library has faced in 2020.
“We were going great guns in January and February,” said O’Neill.
“Then COVID struck.”
The board decided on March 15th that with the Recreation Centre closing, they would follow suit, closing their doors to the public, but transitioning to a curb-side pickup and online delivery service model.
Since that time, the staff of the Stettler Library have conducted over 130 different programs online, split between Facebook Live, Zoom and others.
During the closure, curb-side pickup was used 1,367 times.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic the outreach programs that the library had to the local Hutterite colonies and the seniors’ lodges had to be shut down.
“Only the people who could come to the library for curb-side pick-up could get books,” said O’Neill.
The services were reinstated in June, with a slight switch.
Employees would bag books for the seniors in the lodges, and then they would be quarantined for 72 hours before being released to the resident by staff in an attempt to reduce any viruses entering the facilities.
For the colonies, outreach there has been re-established as well, with library staff putting together requested books, and the colony teachers picking up the items every two weeks.
With the reopening of the facility in June, a successful summer reading program was held which involved a local version of the Amazing Race, which had 10 teams registered.
Another aspect of the summer reading program put together by the library is the availability of craft kits for children to complete at home.
The success of the children’s crafts led to the creation of adult craft kits and in conjunction with the Stettler Information Centre and Family and Community Services, kits will be made available to seniors who have been shut in beginning in December.
In-person programming returned to the library in full swing in the fall, with some changes.
Numbers allowed to participate have been reduced and pre-registration is required for most programming. The library staff is also performing enhanced cleaning of all facilities.
Financially speaking, the library is looking for support from County of Stettler council in the amount of approximately $128,500, a decrease of nearly $6,000 from 2020 numbers.
The reason for the decrease is approximately $30,000 in savings due to the shutdown, which is being forwarded to the 2021 budget.
“They’re going to take that money and move it to 2021. What happens in 2022?” asked Councillor James Nibourg, a concern shared by Chief Administrative Officer Yvette Cassidy.
One particular concern Cassidy had was the matter of library staff wage increases.
During the presentation, O’Neill commented that several staff members would be increasing on the wage grid in the next budget.
“I caution you (council) for funding organizations we belong to when they put merit increases in, and we hold zero on ours, because it creates hard feelings,” said Cassidy.
“If we hold our staff, I would expect the organizations that we fund to hold as well.”
In total, with grants, funding from the County, the Town, and fundraising, the total operational budget for 2021 will be around $500,000 for the Stettler Library, a slight increase over 2019 numbers.
However, the budget does not underscore the value that library brings to the region.
In 2019, the combined requisition from the Town of Stettler and Stettler County was $378,000, however, the value of services provided by the library and its staff was nearly $1.3 million.
This value was calculated by looking at the number of books, ebooks and magazines that were borrowed, as well factoring services that the library staff provided such as assistance with resumes and cover letters, computer use and a wide variety of library programming.
After the presentation, Stettler County council accepted that the presentation as information, and will carry the information forward as they begin their budget deliberations.