Jill Mackenzie carefully replaces books on the shelves at the Houston Public Library. (Angelique Houlihan photo)

Jill Mackenzie carefully replaces books on the shelves at the Houston Public Library. (Angelique Houlihan photo)

District approves annual library grant

Craft kits featured for summer reading club

With its annual grant now approved, the Houston Public Library is set to continue to offer the same level of service as it did last year within pandemic restrictions.

The grant, $122,000 to be paid out in quarterly installments, was approved by council May 18 and forms the lion’s share of its $179,000 budget for this year, says library director Sara Lewis.

“We were able to request the same amount for 2021 due to savings from our 3.5 month closure [last year] and our reduced hours following our reopening,” said Lewis of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the library’s service level.

“Due to the reduced workload, we ended up laying off two staff members so we saved a significant amount on wages which balanced out the costs of plexiglass, masks, cleaner, hand sanitizer, etc.”

The District’s grant works out to 68 per cent of the library budget with the province providing roughly 19 per cent while fundraising, renting the Canfor Room, grants and general donations making up the remainder.

In-person gathering restrictions, provided there continues to be a decline in the pandemic, are to ease as the summer moves along but the library has decided to stick to distributing craft kits, just as it did last summer, for the Summer Reading Club.

“The Summer Reading Club has up to 35 kids in a group. Since there will still be reduced capacity limits in place, we thought it was best to not hold in person programming so we do not have to exclude any children,” Lewis explained.

But with hopes that fall will see a return to normal, Lewis is anticipating bringing back previous programs and events such as the Lego Club, Adult Craft Nights and After School Games.

As far as borrowed books and other items, based on the continued lifting of restrictions, library workers will stop placing returned items into quarantine before checking them in.

“We will however, continue to clean each item that is returned,” said Lewis.

The library’s roof is due for new shingles following minor flooding inside in 2020 which was attributed to ice dams building up on the rood and subsequent melting.

“Upon investigation it was confirmed that the shingles had suffered significant deterioration and damage, which reduced their effectiveness in repelling water from the roof,” a District budget worksheet stated.

A budget of $45,000 has been set aside as an estimate for the reroofing.

And at some point the library wants to enhance its courtyard area.

Summer hours have the library closed Sundays and Mondays and open from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Aside from in-person borrowings, the library enhanced its online services during the pandemic and more information is available on its website, https://houston.bc.libraries.coop/