You know her.
She’s the most reliable employee in your office. Competent, committed and caring. Unflashy and underpaid, she’s usually taken for granted.
In our midst, we have a parallel. The Calgary Public Library.
Did you hear its name trumpeted during any federal budget handouts?
That’s $40 million for Telus World of Science; CPL: 0.
Yet, it’s our library that is more used, more accessible, and the best value for the money during this downturn.
Take those raised parking fees and divert them to the library. You might not hear so many complaints.
The city gives the Calgary Public Library $32.9 million of its current yearly $41.5-million budget.
The rest is from the province based on Calgary’s 2005 city population, and from grants.
Smartly, both governments came together for a Signal Hill renovation.
This year, the library asked the city for another $1.5 million for additional staffing and received $1.2 million.
The Calgary Public Library deserves the whole amount. Consider it serves all Calgarians, and has the highest approval rating of any public service.
Have you put an item on reserve lately?
Its express system is so efficient, it makes you want to cry.
If your branch doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can request a transfer and, boom, it arrives.
Each year, the library lends out millions of books, CDs, DVDs, and works hard to gear its collections to regional interests.
Some libraries have more Punjabi-language materials, some more Mandarin.
No stuffy attitudes here. The CPL has tapped into video game literacy, and has Wii programs up and running. Overall, it’s a bustling family centre.
Our branch, for instance, runs a parent-child book club, which is why I’m up on Tales of Despereaux.
The library staff deserves even closer examination. I keep watching for a misstep; I’ve yet to see it. CPL staff treats patrons with respect, and patience.
Consider that the library attracts the “public”— people with serious mental and emotional problems, kids unaccompanied, patrons grumbling over fines, distressed job seekers, and this equanimity is even more remarkable.
What triage nurses earn at our hospitals, so should library frontline staff.
The library has plans for a new downtown branch, if it can get the land and financing.
Unlike the city bridge folks, it’s holding an architectural competition.
A new city centre library could be major cultural and tourist attraction, just like those in Salt Lake City and Minneapolis.
So taxpayers speak up. Our library system has proven itself many times over.
Its only weakness is that in helping the citizens of Calgary, it fails to forcefully tell its own story at every turn.