In 2016-2017, the Public Library Services Branch 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 is ongoing.
Municipal Affairs provides per capita grants for on-reserve and on-settlement populations to 6 library systems and 3 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
- Yellowhead Library Board
- Province removes barriers to library access for Indigenous families (September 30, 2016)
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)
- access all forms of education in the State (article 14)
- improve economic and social conditions (article 21)
People living on reserves and settlements now have access to public libraries throughout Alberta, equivalent to that enjoyed by municipal residents.
Supporting Indigenous communities
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 provincewide Symposium on Public Library Services for Indigenous Communities. Over 100 participants from across Alberta attended and spent 2 days learning about how libraries can better serve Indigenous patrons and communities. For an overview of the symposium, see the Public Library Symposia page.
- Professional development opportunities for library stakeholders are ongoing through provincial and regional library conferences. Public Library Services Branch offers general consultation support throughout the year for Indigenous public library initiatives within the province.
- Informational engagement meetings with Indigenous library liaisons held bi-annually for those in the field.
- In 2018-2019, the Government of Alberta invested $1 million for the Indigenous Languages Resources Centre to Calgary Public Library, as an Alberta hub for Indigenous language learning.
- Support for the digital platform Voices of Amiskwaciy, hosted by Edmonton Public Library, which supports Indigenous communities to share content online.
- Promotion and assistance in provinciewide projects. Examples include the 2019 Sixties Scoop Society of Alberta experiential exercise tour through public libraries. Ongoing projects such as circulating rotating children’s book kits to different Indigenous community library service points (for example, the Maskwacis Public Library Service).
- Information about working with Indigenous people and communities can be found in the updated Best Practices for Alberta Public Libraries.