Arts Briefs 

Library to cut hours in 2011


The Resort Municipality of Whistler's $2.8 million budget shortfall is trickling down to some community amenities, including Whistler's $12.34 million library, which opened in January 2008.

Lauren Stara, director of the Whistler Public Library (WPL), confirmed that the facility is facing significantly reduced hours - decreasing from 53 to 44 per week - in the new year, unless the RMOW offers up additional funds.

Stara explained that the library is facing a shortfall of $54,000 because of mandatory salary increases and higher than anticipated operating costs, not because of any lack of funding from the provincial government.

"We are receiving the flat amount for everything except for salaries, and we are receiving the four per cent salary increase. But it just costs more to operate this building, both in human resources and in utilities and janitorial costs and things like that, than we thought it did! I mean, we just have so many people through the building every day."

Their mandated step staff salary increases are actually more than four per cent, so they have to dip into other funds to make up for the jump.

"The problem is that the library staff is stretched really thin, as it is," she said. "As I said, we just didn't anticipate the amount of use that this building was going to get, and we just don't have enough staff to do what we're doing already, and to ask us to provide the same amount of service with less staff is just impossible."

Members of the public were invited to comment on WPL's cutback in operating hours during a series of budget open houses and through an online patron survey.

"We have proposed that we be closed on Sunday and have shorter hours on Friday and Saturday, but so far the response via the survey is, 'That is not acceptable!'" Stara said.

"We serve such a diverse range of people here: the families with children want early hours and the seasonal workers want late hours," she pointed out.

Most of the people who have taken the time to offer feedback on the proposed cuts don't seem pleased with the idea.

"Interestingly enough, the survey responses that we're getting, about 50 per cent of the people that are responding are saying, 'I want more hours, not less,'" Stara added.

"When people call me and ask me about it - patrons - I say it breaks my heart! It absolutely breaks my heart. I mean, I'm a public librarian because I want to provide service for people, and I mean, the library isn't a revenue generator - that's a given!"


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