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Clyde must sign up to sign out

Signing out materials from the Westlock Library could soon get a lot harder for Clyde residents.
Librarian Doug Whistance-Smith checks a book out at the Westlock Municipal Library. Clyde residents could find it tougher to use the library’s services unless the
Librarian Doug Whistance-Smith checks a book out at the Westlock Municipal Library. Clyde residents could find it tougher to use the library’s services unless the village signs on to the intermunicipal library agreement.

Signing out materials from the Westlock Library could soon get a lot harder for Clyde residents.

If the Village of Clyde refuses to partner with the Westlock Intermunicipal Library Board and pay a portion of the fees, citizens from the village will have restricted access, according to library director Doug Whistance-Smith.

“If the Village of Clyde didn’t want to enter into the municipal agreement or into the Yellowhead Regional Library System, then Westlock Library would be in breach of the Yellowhead Municipal Systems Agreement,” he said.

“We would have to restrict the borrowing privileges of residents of Clyde. We would be in violation if we didn’t,” he said.

The agreement states “municipal boards may not offer the Universal Borrower Card to residents of non-participating municipalities.”

The Westlock Intermunicipality Agreement was originally drafted in 1999, but was reexamined and updated in 2010, at which point the board began taking steps to include Clyde in the funding. Currently, the operational budget for the library is split equally between town and county, with Clyde having no contribution.

Approximately 25 per cent of Clyde residents are users of the library, so Whistance-Smith said it only makes sense for the village to contribute a portion of the cost.

“We’ve offered those village residents with full-privilege cardholder (status), so they can borrow as much as they want just as any resident of either the town or county, but there’s been no contribution from Clyde council,” he said.

The proposed agreement has Clyde pitching in four per cent of the cost, while both the town and county pitch 48 per cent. This amounts to $9,520 from Clyde for 2012 and $119,000 from each of the other two municipalities.

In addition to this fee, Clyde would also be required to buy in to the Yellowhead Regional Library System, which comes at a cost of $4.30 per person in the municipality. Having 493 residents in Clyde, council would have to spend an additional $2,120, for a total cost of $11,640 to have full access to the library and its materials.

The Yellowhead Regional Library system fee has been $4.30 per capita since 2009 and has increased only $0.25 in the last five years. Between 1998 and 2002, however, the fee was set at $2.56, leading to an increase deputy mayor Bob Gault said he didn’t like, adding he worries a significant increase could happen in the future.

Despite these concerns, Kevin Dodds, director of the Yellowhead Regional Library, said increases are not implemented until approved by the board.

“The service offerings provided to the member libraries of the region have substantially changed,” he said. “The Yellowhead region now operates computer networks in the libraries, we provide access to a centralized library software systems, so that $2.56 per capita and the services it offered have very much changed from nine years ago to now.”

Another issue brought to the forefront was the concern over student access to the library if they are residents of Clyde.

Dodds said public and school libraries are separate, so the students would be entitled to the same services they receive through the school, but would be restricted at the Westlock Library.

Gault said he was not happy with this conclusion, as he felt it was contrary to Canadian law.

“It’s supposed to be equal education, so they wouldn’t have the same rights as the student from elsewhere, so it’s blackmail,” Gault said.

At the time talk first started of Clyde partnering with the library system, Coun. Diana Vosseler was invited to sit on the board as a non-voting member. During these meetings, the board discussed the possibility of having a school-housed library in Clyde, like they do in Jarvie and Fawcett.

They consulted with the librarian at Eleanor Hall School and it was determined there was not enough capacity to accommodate a public or academic collection. They also looked into other buildings to house a library, but could not find something suitable, so Whistance-Smith said it should not be explored any further.

“The only benefit that the outlying communities get is the right to borrow these books or the DVDs,” Gault said. “But Westlock gets the advantage that every person that goes in there is going to stop and give business to a restaurant or something else. They’ve got a financial profit out of it as well, Westlock itself, whereas outlying communities have nothing but expense to go there.”

If the village decided to go ahead with the proposal, they would be able to elect a voting member to sit on the board and have a say in the future of the library. Currently, there are five representatives from the town and four from the county sitting on the board.

A survey is set up at the village office for residents to share their opinions on the matter. The agreement will likely be discussed at the next council meeting, taking place on Oct. 18, pending any deadline from the library board, said Melanie Beastall, village CAO.