M.D. of Willow Creek learns more about regional library system

By Rob Vogt Local Press Writer
The Municipal District of Willow Creek belongs to a regional library system which includes the Granum Public Library, allowing it to offer more services to the community.
M.D. council learned more about the Chinook Arch Regional Library System when Robin Hepher, its chief executive officer, appeared as a delegation at council’s June 22 meeting, accompanied by Lisa Weeks, associate director.
He explained he likes to come out to member communities after a municipal election to introduce himself and Chinook Arch.
Hepher said Chinook Arch is a member-driven public library service organization, inaugurated in 1992, making it the youngest regional library system in the province.
In fact, on April 29, Chinook Arch celebrated its 30th anniversary.
It started with 22 members, and has grown to include 41 member municipalities and one school division. With Nobleford recently joining, every municipality within Chinook Arch’s boundaries that can be a member is a member.
“We are the only one in the province that enjoys what they call system completion,” Hepher said.
Chinook Arch has a system agreement and plan of service.
The system agreement lays out their roles, while the plan of service guides how they will fill those roles.
The system agreement was last revised and updated in 2021, and the current plan of service runs from 2019 to 2022.
Hepher said planning and budget cycles coincide with the municipal election cycle.
Chinook Arch’s four-year budget runs from 2019 to 2022 with the 2022 budget being about $4 million.
Funding comes from members and the provincial government as well as through fundraising.
Municipalities pay a levy of $7.76 per capita, which was reduced by five per cent during the pandemic, and was not increased in 2022.
Chinook Arch’s board sets the member levy, and it must be approved by municipal councils.
Each municipality also has a member on the board appointed by the municipality or school division. The board operates on a one member, one vote model.
Hepher said a lot of work is done by committees. Those committees are finance/personnel; planning/facilties; marketing/communications; and ad hoc committees as needed.
Chinook Arch offers a wide range of services as well.
Bibliographic services include centralized ordering; cataloguing; and processing of materials.
Between $800,000 and $900,000 is spent annually on books. Chinook Arch receives the maximum discount, which each library can use, making local budgets go 40 percent further.
Information technology services include network management and a help desk, as well as Internet service. That also includes the library’s website.
Member support includes library operations support; and digital services which include downloadable and streaming content; e-books and audiobooks; and online courses.
Delivery is another service, where resources, such as books and DVDs, are shared between libraries.
There is also in-library programming.
Hepher then turned his attention to highlights for 2021.
He noted the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything for a loop.
Now, libraries are getting busy again.
Traditionally about 850,000 items are moved per year. By 2020, it was half that, but is increasing.
Van delivery increased from 452,000 items in 2020 to 720,000 in 2021.
There has been a 12 percent increase in online resource usage, and a significant increase in online service usage.
This can be attributed to the pandemic with libraries closed and people staying home and accessing services.
Looking forward, there will be a new four-year budget and levy schedule for 2023 to 2026; a needs assessment is under way; and there will be a new plan of service for 2023 to 2026.
“Thank you for what Chinook Arch does,” said Reeve Maryanne Sandberg.
“Keep up the good work,” added Coun. John Kroetsch who was participating in the meeting via video conference.
He add he is a member of the library board in Granum.
“We sure appreciate your help,” Kroetsch said.
Hepher in turn commended the M.D. for stepping up when Granum dissolved as a town into a hamlet in the M.D., and started a library board to ensure service continued.
“It’s appreciated by the folks in Granum,” Hepher said, adding Claresholm, Stavely, Nanton, and Fort Macleod all appreciate the support they receive from the M.D.
Sandberg also commended the people in Granum for their foresight in forming a library board.
“Kudos to them,” added Coun. Glen Alm.
Coun. Earl Hemmaway, asked how the re-modelling of Chinook Arch’s building went.
Hemmaway was away from council for four years, and the re-modelling was not yet complete when he left.
Hepher responded Chinook Arch received a grant from Alberta Infrastructure.
“It gave us a chance to re-imagine our work flows,” he said, noting it worked out well.
He concluded by inviting everyone of a tour of Chinook Arch’s headquarters in Lethbridge.