Province doles out extra-large library grants

The Bibliotheque Ritchot Library was the recipient of just over $46,000 in grant funding this year thanks to public library support from the province of Manitoba.

“I am happy to announce continued investment into our local libraries,” say MLA Ron Schuler. “This investment to the Bibliotheque Ritchot Library will help continue to make a profound impact on the people and the communities it serves.”

Ritchot library director Michelle McEwan was surprised by funding receipts from the past two years which came to almost $10,000 more per year than she’d applied for.

She says the library board will find good ways to put the money to use.

McEwan is the full-time school librarian at Ecole Gabrielle-Roy in Île-des-Chênes. On the side, she also oversees the public availability of all three Ritchot libraries, which run after-school hours for residents of Île-des-Chênes, St. Adolphe and Ste. Agathe.

Since the three school libraries were opened to the public six years ago, McEwan has been applying for and receiving annual grants every year to help cover operating costs as well as purchase books and, when needed, new technology.

The public library program, she says, is a win/win for the RM and for the two divisions that the schools operate under, Seine River School Division and DSFM (division scolaire Franco-Manitobaine).

The benefit to the RM is that the divisions charge no fees or rent to use the library space in their school. On the flip side, the division becomes the direct beneficiary of all that McEwan purchases via the government grant monies.

According to McEwan, the Biblioteque Ritchot Library was fully reimbursed by the province for $6,000 worth of new books she purchased last year alone. As well, she is able to use the grant for office supplies, a large area rug for children’s story time events, the occasional new computer or printer, and items needed to run a full range of family activities on an ongoing basis.

The key, McEwan adds, is to have the support of the RM since some of the money available from the province must be matched dollar for dollar by the RM. While she knows that she is able to apply for a much larger grant sum than she does, she feels an obligation to consider the cost to the RM when filling out each annual application.

For this reason, McEwan applied for $30,000 in grant funding for the 2022–2023 fiscal year. When matched by the RM, $60,000 would be available for the overhead costs of running the libraries, a large portion of which pays her salary and that of a number of other part-time librarians in the three communities.

A communications spokesperson for the provincial government says that, as of 2021, the province made a commitment to increase the annual funding to the public library sector. For Biblioteque Ritchot Library, it’s an additional almost $10,000 in operating money that does not have to be matched by the RM.

For the province as a whole, the additional funding equates to $769,000. Broken down, $100,000 of the extra funding is designated for the development of public libraries across the province. To help provide reading material access to people with print disabilities, an additional $69,000 in funding was created. And finally, $600,000 in increased funding was allocated to basic library operating costs.

Also in Schuler’s riding, the Springfield Public Library was granted almost $158,000 in total provincial library funding this year. On top of that, they collected another $5,130 from the Rural Library Technological Sustainability Grant program.

Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen