Just like gas and groceries, the cost of books is rising. That’s causing the Haliburton County Public Library (HCPL) to carefully consider how its draft 2023 budget can enhance its collection.

HCPL CEO Christopher Stephenson said at a Sept. 21 HCPL board meeting that an increase in book costs has put pressure on their budget.

“We’ve tightened our belts in a few areas. What does matter to us is the collection… we’ve been able to divert more money towards the collections’ budget in 2023.”

He referenced a letter to the service from Library Bound, a book wholesaler, that predicts a 10 per cent rise in book costs next year.

“The cost of shipping has absolutely skyrocketed, and there have been steady increases and shortages of all the myriad physical components that are part of producing a book and getting it to market, including paper, glue, ink, cardboard and packing tape,” a Library Bound representative wrote to Stephenson. “There is still a critical shortage of printers available to the industry, with labour costs soaring.”

Despite rising book costs, Stephenson presented a draft budget to the HCPL board Sept. 21 that includes a seven per cent increase in the service’s collections budget, boosting it to $118,068.

“We are our collection and it matters. That’s why we did spend a fair bit of time finding money to divert,” he said.

That budget will fund the service’s growing digital library as well. Since 2018, circulation of digital items such as e-books and audiobooks has more than doubled, now making up 38 per cent of the library’s use.

There are more than 90,000 titles HCPL patrons can access via the Overdrive app.

To finance collection expansion, the library plans to decrease spending on automation, bibliographic services, postage and mileage.

The library board must approve the budget before it is presented to Haliburton County council later in the year.

Supply delays keeping Stanhope closed

An accessible door is the final piece in the puzzle for the long-awaited reopening of the Stanhope HCPL branch.

The County of Haliburton has finished maintenance and renovations inside the building, but the contractor hired to complete the exterior accessibility work hasn’t been able to secure a door suitable for the building, which is accessible.

Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said, “what we all want to say is ‘just go and get a new door’. The issue is the door needs to be accessible. That’s the whole point of the project.”

Strategic plan

The HCPL board is set to meet in October to continue work on a service-wide strategic plan.

An early-stage draft of the plan was presented to the board Sept. 21.

“The focus of our new plan may best be summarized by the word ‘modernization,” wrote board chair Sally Howson in an introduction. “Each area of the library is being reassessed for how we can make progress and improvements along five areas of direction. These relate to: communicating our value, honouring our relationships, advocacy and community connection, investing in staff, and creating consistency across the library system.”

The board and library staff will develop the 2022-27 strategic plan based on the work by a strategic plan committee that conducted stakeholder interviews and hired consultants to direct the process.

The plan contains “strategic objectives” for the service, such as communicating the library’s value as a community hub and safe gathering space, building “bridges to new and existing partners and patrons,” advocating for the library and connecting with the community in a strategic way and developing staff, “to strengthen the library internally”.