Public library service is a municipal service as set out in the Libraries Act.
Municipalities may choose to provide the service at the local level, and also at the regional level.
The Government of Alberta provides grants to municipal and library system boards to supplement municipal funding and encourage library service.
We also establish standards for operation, planning of service and facilitate provincewide sharing of public library resources.
Public library service at the local level
At the local level, a municipal council may pass a bylaw under the Libraries Act to establish a municipal library board.
Council appoints members to the board. The board is a corporation and is responsible for the management and control of the public library and its service.
Municipalities may also enter into agreements with up to 2 additional municipalities to form an intermunicipal library board to provide public library service to their citizens.
The structure supports 4 principles for equitable access to public library resources:
- Access – Albertans have an equal right to access information regardless of economic, social or geographic circumstances.
- Accountability – Provincial and municipal governments are responsible for maintaining a healthy public library service. Library boards are accountable to the citizens and funding authorities.
- Quality service – Cooperation among and through library systems is the most efficient means of providing access to information.
- Funding – Public library service is funded by local and provincial tax dollars. Library boards are not taxing authorities but as corporations may raise additional funds.
Public library service at the regional level
Library systems, which deliver services and support on a regional level, are also created under the Libraries Act.
Municipalities and school authorities can join library systems, which are governed by a board consisting of representatives of system members.
Regional library systems are established by the Minister under the Libraries Act when municipalities in an area agree to jointly provide library system services. There are 7 library system boards in the province.
System boards are incorporated under the act and are one of the few programs established under provincial legislation that provide municipal services at a regional level.
Library system services provide professional and technical support to public libraries within the system area so that even the smallest library has access to advice and assistance along with the cost effectiveness and synergies made possible by working through a larger unit.
Systems manage regional resource development and sharing at the regional level. Systems also function as nodes within the provincial public library network to connect resources to residents using municipal libraries in small rural communities.
Provincial support for public library service
We recognize that all Albertans require access to information resources, and we have a long history of encouraging this outcome.
Provincial funding supports equitable access to public library resources and a number of initiatives make it easier for you to achieve this outcome through your local municipal library.