Two all-staff Haliburton County Public Library meetings were held in May at the fish hatchery, the first time since the pandemic began that the complete staff has been together for team building and training. /Photo submitted by HCPL

HCPL auditor applauds merits of library

The following are brief reports of items discussed during a June 8 meeting of the Haliburton County Public Library board.

By Sue Tiffin

Oscar Poloni, auditor with KPMG, delivered a clean audit to the Haliburton County Public Library board and offered an encouraging message on the importance of libraries.
Poloni said that prior to the pandemic when he gave reports in-person, he often used the library when in need of a space to work and was very familiar with and appreciative of Minden’s branch.
“One of the things I think the pandemic has demonstrated, particularly in communities that are more rural, if you will, is how important libraries have become from the point of community connectiveness perspective,” he said, noting in particular the library’s ability to offer internet access. “They become almost hubs of the community, to be able to provide support, and it’s interesting sometimes, I heard a story that said, you never understand how lucky you are until you’re unlucky, and it’s interesting how the pandemic really makes people, in some respects, in some communities, appreciate their libraries even more.”
Overall, Poloni said the library reported a total surplus of $39,000 for the fiscal year, for an accumulated surplus of roughly $622,000. He told the library board that capital assets had increased by $17,000, reflecting $121,000 in capital additions, primarily information technology and collection materials, offset by $104,00 in amortization expense. Revenues have increased by 4.7 per cent, said his report, due primarily to higher funding from the county and increases in other revenues.

Expenses have increased by $207,000 the majority of which relate to increased costs for personnel and library supplies which are consistent with pre-pandemic levels of spending, according to Poloni.
Poloni said the trend seen from 2020 to 2021 in terms of increased expenses is not unusual as the library opens up again after pandemic closures. The board thanked Poloni for his report.
“Numbers are numbers and you deal with that every day, that’s your world, but numbers reflect real people and organizations and I really appreciate what you just said about libraries and how important they are,” said Andrea Roberts, vice-chair of the library board and Dysart et al mayor. “We’ve had a transition in staff, 2021 was a really challenging year … but our branches held their own and we were open when we could to still service people. I totally agree with you that libraries are extremely important in all communities, but even more so in small rural communities.”

New library website launched June 13
Erin Kernohan-Berning, tech and systems librarian, presented a sneak peek of the new library website to the board, who responded with enthusiasm at the design and accessibility features of the new site.
“There are things beyond looks we are really excited about,” Kernohan-Berning said. “As a brand new website it is built to the more modern standards of accessibility and responsiveness.”
The responsive design means the site will work on any screen, whether it be desktop, phone or tablet, and is easier to zoom in on with no “pinching or zooming,” as well as be accessed with a keyboard rather than “mousing” for those with mobility challenges.
The site also integrates with BiblioCommons, the online public access catalogue used by the HCPL, making book searches right from the website easier for patrons, and allows for library programming to be easy to access for both patrons and staff updating the schedule.
“It’s bright, bold, and really exciting to see this, this is fantastic,” said board chair Sally Howson. “That whole programming page, wow. That’s going to make your life so much easier. It’s going to make it so much easier for people to register, to find out what’s going on … I think we’ve just done a whole quantum leap, in the library. We’ve just come forward so far, it’s amazing.”
In addition, a new library logo has been designed, and library staff are wearing lanyards to help patrons identify them.

Stanhope branch to reopen in July
Stephenson said Angie Bird, Algonquin Highlands CAO, confirmed that contractors are on site at the Stanhope branch and have a timeline in effect for the finalization of renovations, with a plan to pour concrete and install what Stephenson referred to as “odds and sods” including an adjusted book slot.
The work is expected to be done toward the end of June, with re-opening day of the long-closed branch planned for early July.

Discussion on DVDs
DVD circulation has increased across all branches as regular service at the library resumes after pandemic shut-downs, but is not yet at pre-pandemic levels. DVD circulation in May 2018 was 4,119 and 4,070 in May 2019. In May 2020 with pandemic closures, that number dropped to 0. In May 2021, DVD circulation was recorded at 563, and in May 2022, it was 1,324.
Roberts asked if, with the addition of Kanopy streaming service to the library’s offerings, “is it time to not eliminate, but reduce the number of DVDs we have?”
Stephenson noted that people coming to the cottage might still have DVD players despite a societal shift to more use of streaming services. He said decisions aren’t being made “just as the pandemic is winding down,” but that staff is keeping an eye on circulation and ensuring funds are allocated to the best option, whether that be the Kanopy streaming service collection or DVDs.