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Houston council approves Library funding increase

Over the past two years, Library funding from the District of Houston has increased 12 percent to $118,000 starting 2015.
Houston Public Library is getting increases in funding from District of Houston in 2015.

Over the past two years, Library funding from the District of Houston has increased 12 percent.

Council approved a $3,000 increase last Tuesday, upping the Library's annual grant to $118,000 starting in 2015.

This follows a $9,500 increase for 2014, which was considered a catch up for the prior three years when no increases were made, said Director of Finance William Wallace.

Library Director Toni McKilligan and Treasurer Sue Jones requested the increase and gave a presentation at a town council meeting Oct. 21.

Jones said they've been keeping costs low and this increase is "small but important" for the Library to keep providing services.

McKilligan says the Library has been providing more and better resources with less.

"We've really been focusing on improving our services to patrons," she said.

A new classification system was set up this year, allowing Library users to browse more easily and find what they need.

"Our collection is now being utilized way better then it used to be," McKilligan said.

Staff also are seeing more easily which sections of material to build up and update, she added.

"Collection development is much more streamlined, much more focused, and much more efficient then it has been in the past."

The Houston Library was also instrumental in launching a pilot project called "Inter-Library Connect," a new system of resource sharing between Libraries.

The system will replace the old "Outlook" system, which McKilligan says is outdated and costing the Province $120,000 annually to support.

Inter-Library Connect started in the Northern Library Federation and now there are 30 Libraries in two other B.C. Library Federations using it, McKilligan said.

They're working to spread it further across the province and should see further development in the new year.

This means patrons will "have seamless access to way more then what we can offer though our local collection," McKilligan said.

"Between Interlibrary Connect and our new system, we're really being able to provide more and better for our patrons, for a lot less money."

McKilligan says their biggest jump in service demand is for public computers and wi-fi access.

Wi-fi users are up 27 percent from last year and average 646 users per month, with 40 to 50 more accessing after hours, she said.

While use is up, grant funding for technology is gone, and McKilligan says funding is coming out of the regular operation budget.

Digital resources are also a big hit, with 15 to 20 percent of circulation now through an online database.

The Library offers patrons over 400 magazines free at the moment of publication, paying just under $300 a year for the Zinio magazine database.

"It's a service that people are really appreciating and really wanting," McKIlligan said.

Sue Jones says the Library is great for people coming into the community.

An environmental consulting group called Tera CH2M HILL even rented the Canfor Room and McKilligan says they ran an office out of the Library from the end of August through October.

"I think it's really cool what's going on," Jones said.