Vancouver Island Regional Library’s 2022 budget increases member levies by 3.84 per cent, about $940,000 more than 2021, for a total levy of $25,440,431.
The VIRL board of trustees approved the library system’s 2022-26 financial plan Sept. 25. For 2022, the budget decreases by $39 million over 2021, in part because of the board placing a one-year pause on capital projects. Shortly after the budget was approved, VIRL announced it was pausing construction on a new library in Campbell River due to skyrocketing construction and labour costs. Next year VIRL will undertake updating its 11-year-old consolidated facilities master plan for its 39 locations.
Vanessa Craig, Regional District of Nanaimo director for Electoral Area B, sits on the VIRL executive committee and told the RDN board the levy for RDN electoral areas will be $2.5 million for 2022, a 3.39 per cent increase based on population and assessment. Area B's contribution will be available in November when the RDN's preliminary 2022 budget will be released. In 2021, Area B contributed $272,814 of the approximately $2.4 million VIRL requisition. Municipal/member levies account for 92 per cent of VIRL’s operating budget.
The 2022 budget shows total operating revenues are estimated to drop 20 per cent in part due to placing another one-year moratorium, brought in when the pandemic hit, on overdue fees for adult materials, a revenue estimated at $205,000. In 2019, VIRL eliminated overdue fees for children’s materials and the board is discussing a permanent elimination of fees on materials for youth 13 years and over, which would represent a $10,000 reduction in revenue. Over 20 per cent of people ages zero to 17 live in poverty within VIRL’s catchment, the business case for the fine elimination states, and removing fines would support equitable access to library materials.
In 2021, VIRL spent $3 million on library materials; 2022 budgets $90,000 additional, a 3 per cent increase.
Like other library systems, VIRL has seen a significant increase in e-book loans during the pandemic. Between the second quarter of 2019 and 2020, e-library usage jumped 60 per cent. In the second quarter of this year, the e-library had 332,000 uses versus 388,000 and 234,936 uses in the second quarters of 2020 and 2019, respectively. E-library usage information specific to the Gabriola Island library was not available.
About 30 per cent of VIRL’s collections budget goes toward digital collections; the amount spent on the e-library has gone up $180,000 since the pandemic began.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder