Response to City of PA Website FAQs Regarding Change to Municipal Library

The document below includes both the City of Prince Albert’s (City of PA) “FAQs” from the City’s website regarding change to a municipal library, as well as Wapiti Regional Library’s responses to the various claims made by John M. Cuelenaere Public Library (JMCPL) and the City of PA.

 

Prince Albert Municipal Library Status: Overview

John M. Cuelenaere Public Library (JMCPL) is following the process set out in the Public Libraries Act 1996 to establish itself as a municipal library to better position itself for future growth and add branches. The first step in this process is a motion of Council. This was passed on June 27, 2016:

Wapiti Regional Library Response: Unfortunately, the first sentence is inaccurate, in that the process currently underway is between the City and the Province of Saskatchewan within the terms of The Public Libraries Act, 1996 (The Act). The City, the Province of Saskatchewan, and Wapiti Regional Library are the parties involved in the process, and at this point in time, JMCPL remains a Wapiti Regional Library branch library.

 

16. 1 Motion from Councillor L. Atkinson with respect to Establishment of John M. Cuelenaere Public Library as a Municipal City Library.

 

0370. Moved by Councillor L. Atkinson, Seconded by Councillor T. Zurakowski. AND RESOLVED:

That Administration proceed with the establishment that (sic) John M. Cuelenaere Public Library be a City Municipal Library by January of 2017.

 

The rest of the process involves an application for a boundary change laid out in the Act which is available at this link: http://www.publications.gov.sk.ca/details.cfm?p=788


The following is the process that is being undertaken for the proposed boundary change:


Two consecutive Public Notices must be included in each of the newspapers within the Library Region – complete (PDF available here)

Public Notice must be provided to:

Local libraries – complete

Regional library – complete

Northern library – complete

Public Library Boards – complete

Councils of municipalities – complete

Any public member with objection(s) can put in a request to be heard at a City of Prince Albert Executive Committee meeting by members of Council. The written request must be received by the City Clerk prior to 4:45 p.m. on October 28, 2016. The date of the City of Prince Albert Executive Committee meeting will be confirmed after the close of the request process.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: The process outlined immediately above by the City does not conform with what The Act stipulates. According to 4.1 (4), (5), and (6) of The Act,


(4) If an objection is filed in accordance with clause (3)(c), the party proposing the boundary change shall call a public meeting by publishing a notice in the manner described in clause (2)(a) and by personally delivering or sending by ordinary mail the notice to those persons mentioned in clause (2)(b), and that notice is required to contain information described in clauses (3)(a) and (b) and to state the date, time and place of the public meeting.


(5) The public meeting mentioned in subsection (4) shall not be held until one week after the day on which the notice of the meeting is last published, delivered or sent.


(6) The party proposing the boundary change shall:

(a) conduct the public meeting and hear all persons who wish to make representations relevant to the proposed change; and

(b) pay any costs associated with the public meeting.


According to The Act, members of the public who have objections to the proposed boundary change DO NOT have to send in a written request to be heard at a City Executive Council Meeting. Rather, the City must publish notice of and hold an actual “public meeting” within the terms of 4.1(4), (5), and (6) of The Act, presented above.


Information on how to request to address City Council is available at the following link: http://citypa.ca/City-Hall/Addressing-City-Council or by the City Clerk’s Office can provide general information by calling (306) 953-4305.

 

FAQs

Why does the City want to establish a municipal library in Prince Albert?

Our goal is to deliver a transparent, accountable, and high quality public library service now, and into the future. The municipal library model set out in the Public Libraries Act 1996 will make it easier for JMCPL to achieve this objective.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: The City has been neither “transparent” nor “accountable” in its dealing with Wapiti Regional Library. The City has also not been transparent with the people of Prince Albert, having hidden almost all discussion and decisions regarding their bid for municipal library status behind closed doors at City Council “in camera” sessions. As an example, Councillor Ted Zurakowski informed Wapiti in April 2016 that the City was preparing a report in which they would gather information on which to base a decision to move for municipal library status. That report was, to Wapiti’s knowledge, never completed; in fact, the City Council motion on June 27, 2016 took place before the province had responded to the City’s request for information for the purported “report” (the Province’s response is dated July 5, 2016).


What are the different library governing structures?

There are two types of library governance in Saskatchewan – Regional library or municipal library.

Presently only Saskatoon and Regina have municipal library status under the Public Libraries Act. John M. Cuelenaere Public Library locations in Prince Albert are currently member branches of Wapiti Regional Library.


What will the differences be changing from a regional to a municipal library?

Governance

Each type of library functions differently. Municipal libraries are semi-autonomous compared to regional library branches that use services provided by regional library head offices. These services can include payroll, information technology, and purchase of materials for the collection.


Boards

Another difference is how the library board functions. Municipal Libraries are self-governing via a municipal library board. Regional libraries are collectively governed by a regional board. The regional branch model is a good design for smaller communities that lack the capacity to manage these services for themselves.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: In the interest of accuracy, each library within the Wapiti Regional Library system is governed by a local board from that library’s community, which is true for JMCPL as well. What JMCPL and the City are not making clear above is that the Wapiti Regional Library system, which is comprised of JMCPL and 45 other member libraries and communities, is governed by a larger, region-wide board. The governance description provided by JMCPL and the City above does not accurately reflect the existing governance model(s) that assist to make Wapiti the cooperative, and extremely productive public library system it has been for over 60 years.


Funding

Regional offices are made possible via provincial grant funding currently administered by the Provincial Library and Literacy Office – a branch of the Ministry of Education. Funding is determined by collection size and hours of service of member branches. The formula for this is set out in the regulations of the Public Libraries Act 1996.

Changing the library service in Prince Albert to a municipal library model is a logical evolution. Since 2000 the library has been taking on more and more services traditionally provided by the regional office. These services include the selection and purchase of materials for the collection, staff payroll, and information technology services.1

Provincial funding to regional offices has remained static for the last two decades. As the cost of living increases, this results in the regional office charging member branches back for services instead of using provincial funding to support those services. Paying for these services via the regional office eliminates JMCPL administration from the tables where the development and planning of library services around the province are managed. 2

Wapiti Regional Library Response: 1 JMCPL does not pay for any Wapiti services offered by the Wapiti Regional Office. What JMCPL and other Wapiti libraries do pay for are non-operational Wapiti services that Wapiti has paid for in the past when times were better financially. However, as Wapiti's provincial funding has remained at the same level over the past several years without any increases for inflation, Wapiti has had to transfer non-operational costs such as Saskatchewan Information & Library Services Consortium (SILS) fees and database licensing fees to our libraries/municipalities. In other words, to claim that JMCPL is "taking on more services traditionally provided by the regional office" demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding as to how regional library systems are funded and operated. JMCPL chose to stop availing their organization of the payroll services offered by Wapiti in 2013, just as they chose to stop using Wapiti's information technology services years prior. Wapiti did not make that decision for them. It was JMCPL's decision to assume those services, resulting in increased costs for Prince Albert ratepayers. Wapiti only ceased purchasing materials on behalf of JMCPL in July 2016, after JMCPL did not pay an invoice of $148,000 to Wapiti by end of June, 2016. This nonpayment of materials funds left Wapiti holding a liability of over $126,000 on JMCPL's behalf. In order to mitigate that substantial financial risk to the entire Wapiti regional system, the Executive Committee authorized management to take the steps necessary to ensure that this situation could not be repeated in the future.

2 Paying for services via the regional office actually has nothing to do with JMCPL's eligibility to be present at any provincial-level "tables." That eligibility is based on The Public Libraries Act, 1996, and the governance model laid out therein, as well as the governance structure of SILS.


Access to Provincial Catalogues

The province-wide shared library catalogue is managed by the board of a not-for-profit corporation called the Saskatchewan Information and Library Services consortium (SILS). Municipal Library Status will entitle Prince Albert to a seat at the SILS board table. SILS does not produce public minutes and communication with SILS via Wapiti Regional Library has been very slow and difficult.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: It is not clear what the above paragraph actually has to do with “Access to Provincial Catalogues.” The “SILS Board Table’s” decision making process is based on fiduciary responsibility to SILS. This means that JMCPL is currently part of Wapiti, the third largest library agency in the province, with the third largest percentage of voting power after Saskatoon and Regina Public Libraries. However, if JMCPL becomes a municipal library, they will not only be the smallest municipal library in the province (after Saskatoon with 9 branches and Regina with 8 branches, and both with populations in the range of 200,000, but will also be the smallest library agency in the province with about 3% of the voting power at the SILS table. Wapiti has supported JMCPL by bringing motions before the SILS Board on JMCPL’s behalf, but cannot be held responsible for the SILS Board’s votes on those motions.


More Transparent, Direct Decision-making

Wapiti Regional Library also represents the region at other tables. The Multitype Library Board which exists to promote library sharing creates the Multitype Database Licensing Program which collectively purchases data products on behalf of the province. JMCPL contributes money to MDLP purchases via the region, but has only indirect input into discussions about what is purchased.

Library standards and practices are also discussed by regional and municipal library directors at a table hosted by the Provincial Library and Literacy Office This group also does not keep public minutes so communication is slow and sometimes incomplete.

Municipal Library status will grant Prince Albert Library administration access to these tables.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: As a Wapiti branch library, JMCPL is not entitled to attend provincial-level meetings. This is not under Wapiti’s control, but rather, is mandated by The Act and the SILS governance policies. However, Wapiti has routinely invited JMCPL to attend various meetings with Wapiti representatives. For example, and directly addressing the claim above, in April 2016, although he chose not to attend, the Director of JMCPL was invited to attend the Multitype Library Board’s Annual General Meeting in Regina to discuss the Multitype Database Licensing program.


More Strategic Planning

Municipal Library status will also allow the City to make a plan for growth. The regional framework in the act requires that each branch have a board. JMCPL has had a branch without a board at its Bernice Sayese Location for several years now. JMCPL would like to start planning the future, and the municipal library model is a better fit for a city with more than one branch.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: The Bernice Sayese “branch” is actually a locked cupboard of books and a couple of computers in a room that is not dedicated as library space. Given this reality, the Provincial Library and Literacy Office does not define JMCPL’s “service point” at Bernice Sayese as a “branch library,” which means that there is currently no call for a board to be put in place. As to the issue of JMCPL branch libraries in Prince Albert, the above does not reflect that while Wapiti does not control how branch libraries are defined in The Act, Wapiti has repeatedly offered to work with JMCPL to affect change at the provincial level to build flexibility or expansion into the current definitions to allow for more JMCPL branches.


Will this boundary change impact library coverage or services?

Outside of the library governance arena and the regional office there should be no changes other than improved service in Prince Albert. Saskatchewan library cards are valid for borrowing and requesting print resources anywhere in the province. This will remain the case. Residents of the RM of Prince Albert, the RM of Buckland, and the RM of Garden River who use Prince Albert for their library service will continue to have the same access they have always had.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: What is not acknowledged above is that if the City pulls out of the Wapiti region, there will be a substantial cut to Wapiti’s provincial funding, of just over $156,000. This funding cut will have immediate and region-wide service implications for all 45 communities and libraries across Wapiti.

Note as well the apparently unknown potential cost of becoming a municipal library for Prince Albert ratepayers. If they leave the region, JMCPL will have to build from scratch the many and substantial services that Wapiti currently provides to Prince Albert’s library and library users/ratepayers. Wapiti still provides cataloguing services and all the infrastructural facilities and labour connected to SILS services, including all the work and facilities around the sorting and delivering of JMCPL materials around the province, and conveying other libraries’ materials to JMCPL. Duplicating these services will call for facility renovations and additional staff resources at JMCPL.


What will the library boundary change mean for the City?

By becoming a municipal library it will streamline all the accounting and funding for the library. The Library Service will be presented as a single line on the city budget. Reserve funds will be documented in the annual audit and can be used for planned improvements – saving for future growth.

Prince Albert materials will be visible by themselves in the library catalogue rather than lumped in with more than forty small branches around the region. The library will also be able to do a better job of logo and branding as JMCPL currently funds SILS and Wapiti Regional Library to put their logos on Prince Albert materials. Delays and/or inefficiencies in orders or processing will be able to be addressed via a hierarchy where the local library board has control over administration rather than the current scenario where Prince Albert constitutes a minority on the Wapiti Regional Library executive committee.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: JMCPL materials can already be isolated by searching the catalogue. As well, the system we have in place across the province is constantly building improvements around improved “findability” in the catalogue.


What difference will Municipal Library Status make for the Wapiti Regional Library?

The formula for funding regional library head offices is set out in the regulations to the Public Libraries Act. (1996) and is based on member branch collection size and hours of service up to a cap. An departure by Prince Albert from the region may cause the regional office to lose some funding from the province under the current formula but the regional office will also have more time and resources to support its remaining member branches as JMCPL represents about a third of the region in terms of population. The province will also be able to redistribute those savings in any manner they deem appropriate. Wapiti Regional Library will also benefit from having similar sized branches to support instead of being forced to support one large entity that is unlike all the other libraries in the region.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: Wapiti will lose just over $156,000 in provincial funding if the City is allowed to pull out of the region. The entire region will feel the effects of this funding loss to Wapiti. It is also not clear what the potential increased costs or service cuts will be for JMCPL and the City, and ultimately for the Prince Albert ratepayers if they leave the region. Because the municipal libraries in Saskatoon and Regina get very little funding from the Province, it is unlikely that JMCPL will receive any significant portion of the $156,000.


Did the City stop paying an annual municipal grant to the Wapiti Regional Library? Is the balance going to the John M. Cuelenaere Library?

Yes, but this wasn’t done overnight. The decision was part of a process that Wapiti Regional Library has been informed of at each step of the process. Several years ago, the City of Prince Albert wrote two grant cheques to fund the Prince Albert Library service. One cheque went to Wapiti Regional Library and was used to pay for Prince Albert library staff payroll and Prince Albert materials. The remaining funds went to John M. Cuelenaere Public Library for building operations.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: Informing your partners and stakeholders after you’ve contravened their Bylaws and Provincial Legislation is not a productive consultative process. Wapiti was never consulted or communicated with prior to Prince Albert City Council motion in 2014 to stop paying the municipal grant according to Wapiti Bylaws and Provincial Legislation.  Wapiti discovered the City Council motion in The Prince Albert Daily Herald, and was never informed until a nominal payment of $100 was sent in January, 2015. The Provincial Government copied the City on a letter, dated July 5, 2016, that clearly pointed out and provided details of the fact that they were contravening provincial legislation (The Public Libraries Act, 1996).

This two-part funding arrangement was complicated and convoluted. It appeared that the city was funding Wapiti Regional Library when it was not and it also made the library service appear less expensive than it actually was because few people knew that two organizational budgets had to be considered to draw an accurate picture about costs. There were also internal disputes about who the employer was, payroll errors and objections to the Wapiti Regional Library board policy of retaining 15% of all funds housed as a reserve.

To reduce the size of the reserve at Wapiti Regional Library, to clear up questions about who the employer was, and to correct payroll errors more rapidly for staff, JMCPL took on payroll in 2013. 1 Funds for payroll were then sent by the city to John M. Cuelenaere Public Library in addition to funds for building operation. In 2015, the city also began sending the annual grant for public Library services to John M. Cuelenaere Public Library rather than sending the component for materials to Wapiti Regional Library directly. 2 This was done in order to make the library funding picture clearer on the city budget and because John M. Cuelenaere Public Library was increasingly purchasing print and electronic resources directly rather than going through Wapiti Regional Library.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: 1 As noted earlier, JMCPL chose to not have their payroll services provided by Wapiti.

2 When the City stopped paying Wapiti the municipal grant in 2015, they contravened not only Wapiti’s Bylaws, but also Provincial Legislation in The Public Libraries Act, 1996.


Wapiti Regional Library disputed the practice of sending all JMCPL funding directly to the branch rather than sending a cheque to the regional body claiming the city was in violation of the Public Libraries Act (1996) and then took action against the City by ceasing financial and operational involvement with acquisition and cataloguing of Prince Albert library materials on July 5, 2016.

Wapiti Regional Library Response: As noted earlier, Wapiti only ceased doing materials acquisitions for JMCPL when JMCPL refused to pay a $148,000 invoice by end of June, 2016. Wapiti never formally disputed the action of the City regarding the municipal grant, instead chose trying to work through the issues with JMCPL in 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately, Wapiti’s hard work and dedication to improving relations with JMCPL in 2015 and 2016 is not reflected in the City of PA’s FAQ statements. As noted earlier, cataloguing services are still being provided by Wapiti to JMCPL, as those services have never been curtailed.

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