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Indigenous families see changes to library rules

Posted on November 3, 2016 by Westwind Weekly

Stephanie Labbe
Southern Alberta Newspapers

An announcement that was made at the Kainai Library recently that the provincial government has made some changes for Indigenous families and their access to public libraries.

People living on First Nations and Métis Settlements in the province will no longer need to pay non-resident fees in order to access public library services.

“Following the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Alberta government has committed to working with Indigenous leaders and communities to implement the principles and objectives of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” stated a news release about the decision.

Lauren Jessop, associate director for the Chinook Arch Regional Library System, says Chinook Arch is very supportive of this decision as it enables library systems to begin to close a long-standing gap in public library services to residents of First Nations and Métis communities in Alberta.

“By removing a portion of this financial barrier, we are taking a step towards … ensuring that First Nations people have access to the same resources as other residents in Alberta,” adds Jessop.

This announcement came with a grant that will be used to reduce the barriers that residents of First Nations experience when trying to access public library services.

“In many cases … they have been required to pay a ‘non-resident’ borrowing card fee that is often substantially higher than the local resident fees. Within the Chinook Arch region, it has previously … been left to the local library board’s discretion whether or not to offer full system services to residents of First Nations along with their non-resident borrowing card. Library boards’ are now … expected to offer First Nations residents a full-service borrowing card at the same price that local residents pay,” adds Jessop.

The Chinook Arch Library Board bylaws had stated that “any person residing in a municipality participating in the Chinook Arch Regional Library System is eligible to apply for a Chinook Arch Regional Library card from their local municipality.” Therefore, any resident of a non-member municipality or federal land area was previously required to pay a non-resident fee to access library system services. It was at the local library boards’ discretion, full-service memberships could be offered to residents from First Nations. Non-resident fees are still applicable for nonmember municipalities.

This new policy took effect, following the official announcement by the government officials on Sept. 30.

“Within the Chinook Arch region, residents of the Piikani Nation and the Siksika Nation … which borders Chinook Arch to the north, will now be eligible to access a fullservice system membership at the same price that residents of Chinook Arch member municipalities pay. Residents of the Piikani and Siksika Nations may choose any Chinook Arch member library … as their home library and can no longer be charged a non-resident fee. Residents of the Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe) are required under Chinook Arch policy … to get their borrowing cards at the Kainai Public Library,” adds Jessop.

Chinook Arch Library System officials are pleased more people can access their public libraries without the extra non-resident fees.

“Chinook Arch Regional Library System is proud to be able to extend services to residents of Piikani and Siksika Nations through our member libraries,” adds Jessop.

“A full-service membership provides access to nearly 900,000 books, movies and other physical materials … downloadable ebooks, audiobooks, movies, music and magazines — access to online courses and other online learning and entertainment resources. Public libraries also provide access to … computers and high-speed internet, quality programming for children, adults and seniors and access to professional staff for information requests, job searching assistance and more.”

This will give First Nations people the opportunities to access the public library systems and access the many different services without the hassle of extra fees.

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