In 2016-2017, the Public Library Services Branch of Alberta Municipal Affairs initiated a $700,000 grant program to eliminate non-resident fees for people living on-reserve and on-settlement to access the resources and services of the Public Library Network. The grant program continued in 2017-2018 and is budgeted for 2018-2019. Municipal Affairs provides per capita grants for on-reserve and on-settlement populations to six library systems and three municipal libraries: City of Calgary Library Board, Chinook Arch Library Board, City of Edmonton Library Board, Marigold Library Board, Northern Lights Library Board, Parkland Library Board, Peace Library Board, Wood Buffalo Library Board, and Yellowhead Library Board. To read the 2016 press release about this new grant program, click here.
In Alberta, public libraries are a municipal level service. Because of this, historically, it has been difficult for communities on-reserve and on-settlement to establish library service or access existing library services. To use libraries in neighbouring municipalities, reserve and settlement populations often paid high non-resident fees. Eliminating this barrier with the new grant program honours the spirit of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) which asserts the right to participate in the life of the surrounding State (article 5), to access all forms of education in the State (article 14), and to improve economic and social conditions (article 21).
People living on reserve and settlements now have access to public libraries throughout Alberta, equivalent to that enjoyed by municipal residents.
The Public Library Services Branch supports public library service for and with Indigenous communities in multiple ways:
- On February 23 and 24, 2017 the Public Library Service Branch hosted a province-wide Symposium on Public Library Services for Indigenous Communities. Over one hundred participants from across Alberta attended and spent two days learning about how libraries can better serve Indigenous patrons and communities. For an overview of the symposium, click here.
- Provincial Operational Policy on Public Library Services for Indigenous Persons is under development and will be shared in 2018.
- Information about working with Indigenous people and communities is being workshopped by key stakeholders and can be found in the updated Best Practices for Alberta Public Libraries.