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REPORTING · 19th February 2013
Walter McFarlane
Once upon a time, the Kitimat Public Library was open 7 days a week. With little warning, one of the big contributors to the community’s tax base closed and the District of Kitimat was made to scramble through a series of budget cuts.

The Library took several hits from the closure including losing one staff member and one day which the library was open, Sundays. Although three years later, Eurocan is still closed, the library is looking at opening, once again, on Sundays.

Starting on Sunday, February 24th, a trial period begins where the library will be open on Sunday. There is also a survey on the front desk to ask the public what they think. In the case it succeeds, the Library Board will approach Council with a budget request. If it fails, they will approach Council and let the Council know it has failed.

Virginia Charron, Library Director told us she was informed she was removed from the Council Agenda for February 12th because there was no need to request any money to cover the $3,100 needed to cover the trial. When asked why the Library was now canvassing the public about Sunday openings she stated: “Due to a major influx of workers to Kitimat to work on the Rio Tinto Alcan Modernization Project, the recent request from regular library users at the Board’s Annual General Meeting and the positive economic climate in Kitimat, the Board has decided that the timing to gauge public interest could not be better.”

On February 12th, Councillor Mary Murphy asked administration if Charron would be at a future meeting. However, Council would start discussion on the library without input from either Charron or Council’s Library representative, Councillor Phil Germuth who was not in attendance at the meeting.

Council was told by District of Kitimat Administration there was a surplus in the library from last year and the library was putting it towards covering the trial. Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated the preliminary budget for the library had a “substantial increase” from 2012. He hoped they would be able to open on a tentative basis with the budget which Council was already approving.

Administration could not answer question on the library’s specific budget. They were told there was some money in reserve for this trial.

Councillor Murphy, who was the former Library Board Representative, spoke against the opening. “That was one of the proposals which I put forward in February when I was on the Library Board. It was, first of all, very expensive and secondly, it wasn’t desired so we’re dealing with the desire by putting out a survey but the request to have it open on Sundays was very expensive for the community and not well received, so I wanted to know exactly what the changes were, if there had been an increase in use, I’m not sure,” said Murphy.

She was told by administration that the library was going to run a trial and monitor the trial. When the trial is done, the library will need to make a decision of when to implement the Sunday opening if necessary.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated he had found the library’s request. Salaries were up 2.5% but the overall increase was 4.73%. He said he wanted to have a better look at that before finalizing the budget. Much later in the meeting, Community Treasurer Steve Christianson told Council the Library does have an increase, however, in their defense when Eurocan Closed, they dropped their budget 5% and froze it.

During the discussion on budget, Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to know if it was possible for the Kitimat Public Library to be funded by the Regional District like the Terrace library is. He was told by Councillor Corinne Scott the Terrace Public Library serves the community of Thornhill which is under the jurisdiction of the Regional District. There are no people living around Kitimat who are under their jurisdiction.

Acting Mayor Rob Goffinet stated he wanted to wish the Library well in canvasing the community. He hoped to find out how the poling went.

We talked to Library Director Virginia Charron and we were told, the library does not need additional funding to run the trial because the trial will cost a maximum of $3100 which has been put aside. A report will go to Council when this trial is complete and Council will be informed of the outcome of the trial.

While there may not have been enough interest in justifying a Sunday opening 18 months ago, there is some interest now and community’s demographics have changed enough to justify the study. One thing which has changed is addition of the camp workers, who have Sunday’s off.

Regardless, if the community wants the library to be open again on Sundays, it will not only require their support and attendance, but also money from the Kitimat Council.