It was more of the same at the Hay River Library Committee’s combined annual general meeting and regular meeting on June 27.
“This facility is essential to the community,” said Ken Latour, having been acclaimed as vice-president only moments before. “There are many organizations in the same situation, but we feel the library is a different type of institution. We serve everyone.”
Latour said the library committee has been looking for increased help from the Town of Hay River with regards to administration for upwards of 20 years, most recently with particular focus on payroll and human resources support. While the committee remains the employer and signs the cheques, the town provides the vast majority of the funding for operations. That funding totalled $177,800 in 2012, compared to $18,600 from the GNWT, the owners of the library building itself, according to the committee’s financial statements.
“The goal is to create stability for the staff,” said board member Dorie Hanson. “Right now, the committee is the employer and we don’t have all the expertise to be comfortable doing payroll and other more complicated HR (human resources) functions. We’re looking for some guarantee of continuity for our staff.”
The committee believes the underlying problem is the uncertainty of the existence and make-up of the board itself.
Acclaimed president Pat Wray has, in the past, found herself the only member of a body that is directly involved in the operations of the library.
“I wasn’t planning on staying on,” said board member Michelle Staszuk. “But when I learned Pat would be alone, I knew I had to. The library’s services are too basic to risk.”
Negotiations with the town are ongoing, but Hanson credits the current council with being willing to come to the table for discussions where previous councils and administrations were not.
“This town council is better than most,” she said. “They’re willing to work with us to find solutions. It’s the first time in eight years they have been willing to meet with us outside of council and they’ve been listening.”
Hanson said she understands the town has valid concerns and that the library is not the only organization in the community seeking help from the municipal government. She said the comparison to the Hay River Golf Club had been made – as it too is at least partially funded by the town, but overseen by a volunteer board as opposed to municipal administration – but that it was not a fair one.
“We provide a much-needed service to everyone in the community, not only a select group,” she said.
Latour believes the library is a bastion of cultural development in Hay River and needs to be protected in the same way as most small libraries across Canada: as a responsibility of the municipality.
“This is the only facility tending to artistic, cultural, non-sporting needs throughout the whole year,” he said.
Mayor Andrew Cassidy told The Hub he understands the library committee’s concerns, but that there are some questions that need to be answered before the town can make any decision regarding administrative support.
“We feel the committee runs it better than any other organization could right now,” he said. “And we have to be careful about committing taxpayers’ money.”
Cassidy said the library is among a number of organizations looking for support and the reality is the town cannot accommodate them all.
“We understand each other’s concerns and I think it’s important that we keep working together to find a solution that works for everyone,” said the mayor.
— Sarah Ladik