'To the next level': Why Georgian Bay's libraries are getting a $50K boost

·3 min read

After passing a year of declining circulation numbers, the Georgian Bay Public Library is set to receive $50,000 from the township this year to boost its numbers and revamp the organization.

Susan McGibbon, the library's new board chair, delivered a presentation to council on March 9, requesting $50,000-worth of funding to help the library hire and pay a new CEO, increase branch hours and programming and develop its brand. Council voted unanimously in favour of granting the funding request, to come out of the Working Reserve Fund.

"I think the libraries we currently have are fantastic ... The value we've received for our tax dollars in the past has been fantastic," said Mayor Peter Koetsier, during the meeting. He said this funding will take the libraries "to the next level."

Here's what McGibbon shared during the council meeting about the library and information from council:

An online survey from the library, conducted in February, found 84 per cent of respondents rated the library as "good" or "excellent" and 79 per cent said the library is an "important" or "very important service." However, circulation at the library decreased by 44 per cent in 2020, which the library attributes to COVID-19. In its request for funding, the library stressed the importance ofits institution as a tool for communities to "foster collaboration, cohesion, communication and unity."

The library began seeking a new chief executive officer after Tracey Fitchett resigned from the role in late January. While reviewing potential candidates, McGibbon said they found the average respondent "had limited to no library experience." According to 15 CEOs who contacted the public library's hiring team, the job's salary and benefits are "unacceptable" for the position, stating "the GBPL does not appear to be a community and township priority."

The public library is looking at a 2021 operating budget of $211,925 for their locations in Honey Harbour, MacTier and Port Severn, plus $138,000 for annual staff wages. According to the SOLS CEO Salary Survey (2018), the average CEO of three or more libraries in Ontario makes $87,000 to $109,000, plus benefits and a pension plan. Without funding, Georgian Bay's library has room for a $52,000 salary with no benefits or pension.

The library hired a new CEO who will join it in April. As well, it is looking to create a new strategic plan for 2021, rework its website and communication channels, including emails, social media presence and more, launch a summer marketing campaign to drive up membership and to facilitate community outreach with residents and the Georgian Bay Association for cottagers.

Council voted in favour of providing $50,000 of funding to come out of the township's Working Reserve Fund. Coun. Brian Bochek suggested township staff look at an alternate source for this funding in the township's resources. This funding will not come without some impact on property taxes. Council's resolution states funding the library will mean an initial annual levy increase of 0.85 per cent for 2022, with a compounding increase the years after that.

​Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com