Public space restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in digital materials from B.C. public libraries, and a need for “barrier-free community spaces and reliable internet access,” Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen said Tuesday.
Cullen announced a one-time grant of $8 million for B.C.’s 250 public library branches May 17, taken from the province’s pandemic assistance fund. Grants to each library branch are for projects such as 24-hour internet access, improved air circulation and expanded digital collections.
The funding will also allow expansion of summer reading clubs for children, B.C. Library Association executive director Rina Hadziev said at an announcement in the James Bay branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library.
The costs of the pandemic were unprecedented, including the provision of digital materials and support for students and employees who were abruptly forced into hybrid working and learning environments, said Andy MacKinnon, a councillor in Metchosin and member of the Greater Victoria Public Library board.
The $8 million grant is in addition to annual operating grants from the B.C. government to offset the cost of operations, which are based on a per-capita formula.