Richmond city councillors decided to reduce the opening hours of three branches of the Richmond Public Library, at a council meeting Monday night.
The cuts will save $200,000 annually and result in 26 fewer hours of operation, per week, across the Steveston, Cambie and Ironwood branches. From the savings, the library will apply $150,000 to its e-book and print collection.
The move comes after councillors, and in particular Mayor Malcolm Brodie, questioned rising costs of the library last week at a finance committee meeting, where Brodie said he wouldn’t consider cuts.
Brodie had expressed concern that the library was asking for an additional $200,000 for its collection on top of a three per cent increase to its annual budget. He noted the library’s annual costs rose the most out of any division in the city (other divisions rose by just over two per cent, on average).
“Obviously, no cuts are better than some cuts but I’m hoping we can manage,” said chief librarian Greg Buss, who was asked by the committee to find extra money for the collections without having to raise the budget.
“Adding to the collection is important. There’s no point in having your doors open if you can’t provide (reading) material,” said Buss.
In the wake of council’s directive, a report Monday from community services manager Cathryn Volkering Carlile stated the city feels the cuts will be “tolerable by the patrons.”
Richmondite Eric Ren was lined up with a dozen people at the Brighouse (Main) branch before it opened at 9 a.m. Tuesday. He said while he doesn’t use the other branches he knows seniors that do. He said weekend hours are particularly important to people.
On Twitter, Jeremy Hopwood said it was a “weird place to focus efficiencies.”
Laura Heroux said the libraries are one of the best things left in Richmond.
“I hope they leave them and their great staff alone,” she said, via Twitter.
The cuts bring down the 2016 library budget increase to 2.38 per cent, for a grand total of $8.7 million.
Buss said the library is facing challenges, such as transitioning to e-books, while maintaining the print collection. On top of those demands, the library is tasked to provide non-English materials.
Carlile’s report indicates Richmond’s library system is among the most cost effective in Metro Vancouver. Municipal support per capita rings in at $40.61 whereas the regional average is $56.08.
Last year, the library saw 8.8 visits per capita, just above the regional average of 8.4. Richmond also has a strong circulation per capita, considering it has the least amount of floor space per capita.
According to the report, the library will cut hours on two weekdays at the three aforementioned branches. Buss said he would have to analyze what the exact cuts will entail, but suggested they will be consistent for the public.
Each branch is open 69-74 hours per week, at various times between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Notably, no full-time staff members will be cut; salaries account for roughly 65 per cent of the library’s annual expenses.
This year, the library lost $60,000 in book fine revenue. As such, on top of the reduced hours, Buss has been forced to raise fees, starting in the new year.
Last week, Coun. Bill McNulty said he agreed with the new fee schedule but was opposed to the reduced hours. He and Coun. Linda McPhail voted against the motion, while Coun. Ken Johnston was absent.
Coun. Carol Day was happy with the report.
“Look what we can do when we sharpen our pencils,” said Day.
Coun. Alexa Loo was outspoken at the committee level about supporting the library, which, she said, generally assists low-income people more proportionately. However, she joined Brodie, Day and councillors Harold Steves, Derek Dang and Chak Au in support of the reduced hours.
Last summer the library issued 20 “actions” to reduce costs and increase revenues at the request of council.
Higher late fees, more stringent borrowing limits, decreased janitorial services, developing corporate sponsorship and asking the public to volunteer at the library are some of the ideas Buss came up with (noting its union has expressed “concerns”).
The library plans to increase adult book late fees from 30 cents per day to 50; maximum fines will increase from $10 to $15; charges for unused holds will double from $1 to $2. The changes will raise about $100,000 over the next two years.
Meanwhile, loan periods would be reduced from four to three weeks and borrowing limits from 25 to 10 books at a time (e-book limits will go from 10 to five).
Among many janitorial cuts, the library will cut $1,000 from its budget by eliminating chair cleaning.
The library will also eliminate numerous fax lines for public use.