Airdrie residents can enjoy access to Airdrie Public Library (APL) free of charge as of Dec. 12, 2017, thanks to the elimination of membership fees as a result of budget adjustments. The decision allows APL to catch up with other libraries across Canada, said Daniel Nelles, Library Board Chair, and participate in the growing trend to reduce financial barriers.
“Calgary has been able to offer free memberships for a few years, but we haven’t been in a financial position to that up until this point,” he said. “The NDP government has been funding for population growth for libraries, which has given us a more stable framework to get our finances in order.”
Last year, APL was able to provide free memberships for students and for seniors, Nelles said, but was able to maneuver its budget to expand this reach. He added the decision wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of library staff, which he said was able to “streamline resources” to incorporate the budgeting decision. According to Library Director Pamela Medland, APL staff was thankful for the board’s support.
“Even though it was only $20, it was still a barrier for some families – and, of course, for children and teenagers,” she said. “It’s hard economic times here in Alberta, and this seemed like an unnecessary hardship for some. We’re always looking for ways to reduce barriers to service, so we really wanted to find a way to make it happen.”
To take advantage of the waived membership fee, Airdrie residents need to bring in photo identification along with proof of their city address, Medland said. Residents who already have a library card can renew for free, as long as they have no outstanding overdue fines.
“Folks might think of libraries as a stereotypical book repository, but the library hasn’t been like that for quite some time,” Nelles said. “This is a real centre of the community. We’re a public art forum, we have services for seniors, literacy programs for parents and their babies, we’re a meeting place for community groups – there’s so much going on, and to be able to offer that free of charge, regardless of who you are, it’s just so important.”
Residents will be able to access a wide range of resources with their library membership, Medland said. APL offers extensive programming for children and for families, but, she added, increasingly for adults as well. The library allows users to access a collection of millions of print and audio-visual materials shared with other facilities across the province, as well as digital resources like e-books, audiobooks, and online learning resources.
“We’re a very special resource that is critical in a democracy, to ensure we have an educated and engaged population. And we enhance the quality of life here,” Medland said. “The library is a great place to come and have fun – relax, read a book, meet with friends and enjoy some of your leisure time.”