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B.C. government gives libraries $8-million boost for COVID relief

Public libraries across B.C. will receive $8 million in COVID-19 recovery funding, Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen announced Tuesday.
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Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen speaks at the announcement of funding for B.C.’'s public libraries at the sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay library branch Tuesday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Public libraries across B.C. will receive $8 million in COVID-19 recovery funding, Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen announced Tuesday.

The one-time investment will assist 71 public libraries, six library federations and three library service partners to enhance services and fill gaps created by the pandemic.

“As we move into the next stages of pandemic recovery, this provincial investment will go a long way to enhancing inclusion, accessibility and will help to tackle the digital divide in B.C.,” said Kevin Millsip, executive director of the B.C. Libraries Cooperative. “We’re excited to work with the province to help libraries help people.”

Library users might see enhanced services at their local branches, such as adapted physical spaces, computer and virtual technology training or community connection building programs.

The B.C. government provides $14 million per year to cover library operating costs across the province and in 2020 provided $3 million for digital services, online collections, public computer access and internet connectivity to expand public access to library services.

Between April and June 2020, the Greater Victoria Public Library reported a 92 per cent increase in the use of digital resources. During the pandemic, many library programs were created for virtual or contact-less use, such as Grab and Go tables at branches, outdoor StoryWalks and themed scavenger hunts.

Greater Victoria is home to 12 public library branches.