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No cuts to service as RWL budget drops 7.2%

Sharper pencils and not outright cuts are behind a 7.2 per cent decrease in the Region of Waterloo Library’s 2021 budget.

As part of the region’s overall budget approved last week, the library saw its share drop to $2,844,642 from $3,049,672 in 2020. Thanks to changes that were already implemented last year due to the coronavirus pandemic – and some additional work finding efficiencies and funding streams – there will be no service reductions in the system that serves the region’s four townships.

Because of things like curbside pickup, a shift to virtual programming and the implementation of the “Ask a Librarian helpline,” RWL already had many methods in place to help buffer against the decreased budget, said manager of library services Sheryl Tilley. She notes administrators worked to find changes that would help taxpayers while still maintaining the quality of service to township residents.

“The library was able to find efficiencies and contribute to the overall regional budget which mitigates the financial impact on our taxpayers during these difficult times,” she said. As part of the budget process, we actively matched anticipated expenses to a variety of funding streams. Leveraging funding available to the library from regional development charges, allowed us to ease the pressure on operating expenses for growth-related collections acquisitions.”

She says moving programming online also helped things as it centralized the work for events so everyone from Elmira to Ayr can take part in programs. Going online has also allowed the library to take an innovative approach to business, as Zoom calls and less travel meant they could reduce mileage and also become stewards of the environment.

Despite the uncertain times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing lockdowns and plethora of other restrictions, Tilley says the library has looked to make lemonade with the lemons it was handed.

“I would say we took something that could have been negative and turned it very, very positive. It forced us to look at what we were doing, to become innovative and responsive. We actually did our best to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”

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