Okanagan library users to keep getting more programs

ORL budget increase covers inflation, with a bit for new initiatives. Wi-Fi use more than doubled year-over-year.

ORL

At the Okanagan Regional Library Board meeting on Sept. 21, directors reviewed the proposed budget for 2017 as well as progress on the library system’s strategic plan and coming priorities.

Finance committee chair Lori Mindnich, the ORL rep from Lumby council, presented a budget for the coming year that would include a 1.98 per cent increase to the 2016 operating budget of $18.3 million, consisting primarily of inflationary expenses (1.6 per cent), with roughly $70,000 (or 0.38 per cent) of new initiatives.

Mindnich explained that the goals of the Finance Committee were to continue to keep the overall budget affordable with current inflation levels, while focusing any changes on strategic items outlined in the ORL’s Strategic Plan and maintaining critical core services.

New dollars target the increasing demand for library programming, learning initiatives, and outreach, and training for staff to assist the public with the sweeping technology changes present today. In 2015, the ORL saw a 20 per cent increase in attendance at classes and programs, with adult attendance doubling. The board will vote on the 2017 budget at their Nov. 16 meeting.

ORL staff also reported on implementation of the newly-adopted Strategic Plan which is focused on transforming the library to meet the changing learning needs of Southern Interior residents.

Highlighted reports included a review of the ORL’s Information Technology infrastructure, which is facing a number of challenges. Demand for bandwidth and Wi-Fi access continues to increase, with free hours used at 57 Wi-Fi hotspots increasing from 160,000 hours in 2014 to 341,000 hours in 2015.

Kelowna main branch

Also highlighted were the Master Plan for the downtown Kelowna branch’s revitalization and new targeted services available to members with print disabilities. The ORL can provide free home delivery and download of materials for the blind, for people with learning disabilities, and for those who can’t physically contend with standard print materials.

Free enhanced print formats

In addition, with the help of the Central Okanagan Foundation, the ORL recently launched a pilot to loan out tablets preloaded with these special materials. It is estimated that 10 per cent of the Canadian population has impairments reading traditional print formats and many in the public aren’t aware of free services available to them through the library.