As the provincial government deals with a slumping economy and a budget shortfall that’s in the billions, it decided to give Alberta’s libraries an annual $9-million boost in funding Thursday.

But the 39 per cent increase in funding is important as Alberta continues to cope with the worldwide recession, said Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk.

“Library use is increasing during these tough economic times,” said Danyluk after Premier Ed Stelmach made the announcement at the Stanley Milner Library.

“This is a $9-million increase that libraries can depend on.”

Libraries will now get $32 million in funding annually and $7 million of the increase will go directly to local library boards and regional library systems to deliver basic library services.

The remaining $2 million will be used to invest in new technologies to help build on the province’s library network.

Danyluk also said the government is floating a plan to create an Alberta-wide library card.

With the new boost in funding, Edmonton’s public libraries will see an extra $1 million a year, said library board CEO Linda Cook.

Cook said the new cash could help bring in more staff to extend the hours of the libraries.

“The beauty of this is that it’s ongoing money,” said Cook. “It’s not one-time money, so we’ll be getting that each and every year.

“We’ve been lobbying this for over 13 years now and we thought we were close, but when we heard about the deficit we were sad … but this shows how important this really is in these tough times.”

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