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City joins chorus calling for more provincial library funding

Provincial funding has been frozen for more than 20 years and represents just 2% of library's budget
Orillia Public Library

It’s time for the province to turn the page on library funding.

At least, that’s the consensus from the Ontario Library Association (OLA) and the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (FOPL), who are asking for more provincial funding of libraries. They have sent letters to most municipalities – including Orillia – looking for support. On Monday night, council committee voted to support the pitch to the province.

According to a report to council committee Monday, when Mike Harris was premier in the mid 1990s, he slashed library funding by 40% and froze it – it’s been frozen ever since.

“The annual Public Library Operating Grant (PLOG) has not changed in more than 20 years,” said Orillia Public Library CEO Suzanne Campbell.

In Orillia, that means the province has provided about $47,900 annually to help support the library’s operating costs. In 2018, the library’s operating budget is $2,289,682, so that means the province is providing about 2% of the funding required.

“The largest part of our budget is funded through the municipality,” said Campbell.

With that in mind, city council threw their support behind the OLA “ask” for more provincial funding on Monday night. The agencies are seeking an increase in funding for public libraries from $33 million to $50 million and are lobbying for subsequent increases in line with the consumer price index.

Increasing the funding would ensure libraries large and small provide a certain minimum service, said Campbell. She said more provincial funding would help lessen the strain on the city and, possibly, allow the local library to expand its reach.

"It would ... maybe allow us to expand some of our services," said Campbell. "Today people are looking at opportunities for creating their own product. For us to be able to offer those opportunities with better ministry funding would be how I see it moving in the future."

She said it’s time funding reflects a modern library, noting operations at libraries have made a quantum leap over the past 20 years while provincial funding remained stagnant.

"Libraries in the past were basically stores of information and we helped people find information and to store information and provide access to information," said Campbell. "Now we’ve moved into more of bringing people in to experience learning ... We are not just a store of information, we are helping people create and share information and we offer a lot more programs."

Increased funding is the first and more important part of what the provincial library lobby groups are asking. The OLA and FOPL recommend three funding priorities “that are essential for ensuring a modern, sustainable library sector” in Ontario:

  • Provide sustainable, predictable funding for all public and First Nations libraries across Ontario by increasing annual base funding from $33 million to $50 million – an increase of $17 million in annual funding.
  • Dedicate $25 million in new, annual funding for the development and implementation of Ontario’s Digital Library.
  • Mandate the use of funding allocated by the Ministry of Education for school libraries and teacher-librarians for its intended purpose. This will inject an estimated $100 million in annual funding to school libraries across Ontario without requiring any new provincial funding, while ensuring that school libraries get their fair share.

According to statistics provided by the agencies, every year, 4.2 million Ontarians of all ages access 242,000 programs through their local public library. In addition, they say, every dollar invested in libraries generates over $6 in local economic impact benefitting regular Ontarians.


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Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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