It’s not just for books – the library is an economic advantage

At Elk Point’s town council meeting on Monday, December 11, library board delegation Daphne Schnurer and Laverne Wilson reviewed the history of the library, provided statistics on current usage, and requested some changes to the budget.


About 8 years ago, library fees were dropped in Elk Point. According to Wilson,  “Fees were just another tax for the residents. Patronage has increased greatly since that time.” After listing the advantages of free access, he turned to the Town’s budget, questioning the $6000 earmarked for the Elk Point library, suggesting that the County of St. Paul provides more funding than the Town of Elk Point does.


However, in the week after the council meeting, town administration reviewed Elk Point’s  contribution to the library. Town CAO, Ken Gwozdz explained, “The Town of Elk Point contributes approximately $52,000 annually. This includes all utilities, annual payment to NLLS (Northern Lights Library Service), maintenance of building inside and outside, such as the sidewalk, front door drainage, rear door, snow removal, sanding, etc,” as well as a grant to the operating budget. (See table, which shows town’s contributions to the library for the past 5 years.)


“We’re definitely contributing some pretty significant numbers to the library,” concluded Mayor Lorne Young.


The County of St. Paul designates about $25 000 annually for the library. Schnurer added, though, that the Friends of the Library, a volunteer group of about 25 members, raise funds to support programming, shelving, computers, books, and even recent improvements, including replacement of the furnace, air conditioning, hot water heater, and shingles. Gwozdz joked that they are pretty good renters, since they have done so much work to upgrade the building.


Wilson says it’s worthwhile to invest in the library. “For economic development, you have to get people coming to town. The library is a number one draw.”   After-school and summer reading programs, knitting and jigsaw puzzle building, fundraising teas, and special events like the hugely successful Comic Book day held last May attract people looking for something to do, which also puts these people downtown where they may stay to shop or eat.


The facility is offered free for non-profit groups to hold meetings, and Schnurer says constant use has “endless benefits.” Clientele come from other communities because new books are introduced regularly, Elk Point library has more books than other libraries in the area, and it is open when other libraries are not (for example, St. Paul library is closed on Mondays.)


The public access computers are a reliable draw. Many oilfield safety courses and operator courses are on-line, and for people who “don’t have the internet, or don’t have a super-current computer that could run those courses, quite often they are coming here,” explained Schnurer.  “Building resumes or completing job applications. That is a huge part of our public computer use. We’ve had Alberta Health Services people doing their courses here, too. Most people using the computers are here with a purpose.


“We order books through NLLS, whose weekly van run is indispensable.  We also got in on purchasing our computers with other libraries through NLLS so we could access bulk discount prices.”


Library membership has increased by about 5% per year for the past three years. By November 30, this year’s membership was estimated at 2190. Schnurer expects that to rise a little more before the end of 2017.