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Fraser Valley libraries get funding boost from Victoria

FVRL will get almost $220,000 in COVID relief and for emergency planning

The library system that serves Langley and many of its neighbours is getting almost $220,000 in funding, the largest share of an $8 million provincial fund distributed as part of a COVID-19 relief plan.

Fraser Valley Regional Library, which has 25 branches from Delta through to Boston Bar, including seven in Langley, is the largest library system in the province by population served.

It will get $219,882 in funding from two streams.

The first is a COVID-19 relief and recovery fund, which will give FVRL $16,911.69, for unexpected costs associated with the pandemic, and to support recovery initiatives.

Another $54,970.56 will go towards emergency planning and preparedness.

“It was quite surprising, and very appreciated,” FVRL CEO Scott Hargrove said of the grant.

Although a final decision has not yet been made, the FVRL staff have some ideas about what they want to do with the money.

One of the top priorities for the money will be purchasing more ebooks. Electronic books were already seeing a 50 per cent increase in circulation even before the pandemic, Hargrove noted. They are far and away the fastest-growing portion of the library’s circulation.

The library is also looking into adding items to their Playground lending system. Playground is the selection of items that are outside the traditional realm of books, films, and music. The library lends out small robots, ukuleles, telescopes, and puzzles. Hargrove can’t say what the next expansion might be yet as it hasn’t been finalized.

Although 25 per cent of the money is earmarked for emergency planning, Hargrove said the FVRL may actually spend more than that amount.

The libraries were impacted by the Fraser Valley floods, the heat dome, and other weather events last year.

The FVRL saw staff cut off from the libraries where they worked, and at the same time, was trying to serve people displaced by disasters. The library even established a small, temporary collection of books at Abbotsford’s Tradex for people who were sheltering from the floods.

Putting funding towards preparing for similar future events is a priority, Hargrove said.

READ ALSO: Late fines ending at all Fraser Valley library locations

“Not only are they [libraries] spaces that bring communities together through vital programs, including literacy and learning opportunities, but they also offer us a little magic through free learning resources, books and audiobooks, and films and documentaries,” said Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman. “This funding will help librarians and patrons alike as it assists with upgrades and updates to facilities and websites to continue giving local people amazing services.”

Vancouver Public Library, as the second-largest library system in the province, received $203,000, while Surrey’s library system received $143,000.

A total of $8 million in COVID-19 relief and recovery funding is being distributed between 71 public libraries, six library federations and three library service partners across the province.

This funding follows $3 million to public libraries in 2020 aimed at expanding digital services from the pandemic.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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