INNISFAIL – Local residents without a library card can now get one for free.
The offer is good for an entire year, and includes both new and existing patrons who need renewals. The new library card initiative suspends annual library card fees, which were $10 for individuals and $20 for families.
“The pandemic has had varying effects on people’s lives and incomes. The library has always provided access to resources and activities (programs), as well as social connection for next to no cost,” said Tara Downs, manager of the Innisfail Public Library, whose staff reopened the library on June 10 following a third wave of provincial COVID restrictions.
“Elimination of card fees for the year will create access for all of the citizens of our community which will help us increase awareness of what the library has to offer.”
She said about 1,000 Innisfailians now have library cards and is hoping the new program will inspire more people to get them, noting the numbers have dropped a bit since the library has faced COVID closures.
“It has been difficult to connect with people. When you are closed people tend not to visit you as much,” she said. “We did curbside and it went very well. Our numbers for that are very comparable to what we were doing when people came in. It’s not like people forgot. The diehards were still coming, still getting resources. Our e-resources have not dropped off since it increased at the start of the pandemic.
“Yes, we are doing OK but we would just like to reach more people.”
Downs said she and her staff will be marketing the new free library card initiative to the community.
“I am going to be going into the schools from kindergarten to Grade 4 to do presentations on the cards, as well as the programs we offer,” she said, adding it will be done virtually as the schools are still not allowing the public inside.
Downs said the library is also promoting the new free library card initiative at the Market on Main, which began its 14-week summer event every Tuesday starting on June 15, from 3 to 7 p.m. until Sept. 14. She said with COVID restrictions now easing it’s vital to resume community outreach.
“When I started here, we were physically in the schools presenting and that hasn’t happened. We didn’t do it last year and we are going to do it this year,” she said. “I am quite excited about that.”
The free annual library card offer to Innisfailians is made possible by a $10,000 grant from the Town of Innisfail; monies that originally came from the $799,579 in Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) funding the town received last fall.
MOST is a program created by the provincial and federal governments to assist municipalities with the financial impacts caused by the pandemic. Municipalities had until March 31 to use it, or return remaining monies to the province.
The town had $76,940 in unused MOST funds before the deadline and council approved giving it to Innisfail FCSS for additional community COVID assistance, which included $30,000 toward counselling, $5,000 to the Innisfail Garden Club, and $10,000 to the Innisfail Public Library.
“The library is a really important facility in our community that really engages our residents,” said Karen Bradbury, the town’s community and social development coordinator. “It was important pick the library so that way people will have access to programs and services and even checking out a library book shouldn’t be a barrier, so with that money we are encouraging more people to come to the library, check out not just the materials but check out the programs they offer as well.”