New report highlights importance of Canada’s public libraries during pandemic and calls for support to ensure economic recovery

A new report highlights the importance of Canada’s public libraries during the pandemic and calls for broader support to ensure economic recovery and resilience.

Toronto Public Library’s Scarborough Civic Centre Branch. Photo by ©Ben Rahn/A-Frame

The Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) and Canadian Urban Libraries Council / Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada (CULC/CBUC) recently announced the release of a report called OVERDUE: The Case for Canada’s Public Libraries.

The report highlights the significance of public libraries for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery and calls for renewed and diversified investment.

The report is the product of three years of CUI’s engagement with Canada’s urban public libraries through the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings revealed that Canada’s public libraries are fulfilling the mandates of every order of government by providing access to knowledge, culture, health, reconciliation, belonging, and democracy.

CUI’s research also puts a spotlight on the role that Canada’s public libraries play in enabling governments to meet obligations.

“Through the pandemic, libraries emerged as our ‘safe third places’– providing reliable, essential service that was mobilized swiftly and decisively to meet the needs of local communities. Libraries ensured community knowledge informed emergency response nationwide. This report highlights the invaluable role libraries are playing for every order of government, meeting critical needs across the country,” said Mary W. Rowe, president and CEO, Canadian Urban Institute.

Canada’s public libraries often operate as community hubs and triage centres on main streets and support social services and manage crisis response on-the-ground.

While libraries have had to expand their traditional roles to respond to social vulnerability across Canada, they are struggling to handle the demands.

“Public Libraries are one of our most important national assets. Libraries are crucial community anchors in every neighborhood, in cities and smaller communities, performing essential community work, and the demands placed on them are only increasing. This report captures the ongoing evolution of libraries’ roles across Canada, and calls upon all our leaders to make investments in their future,” said Åsa Kachan, chair of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council.

The report proposes two potential futures. The first one is where chronic under funding persists versus an aspirational scenario, where libraries are “Resourced for Resilience”, equipped to respond to every day challenges and beyond, and ensure they are building community resilience.

The case provides recommendations for public policymakers to instill positive change which include relieving current operational pressures to ensure libraries remain safe, accessible and welcoming, treat libraries as critical infrastructures where community resilience is strengthened through funding of libraries and formalize sustainable investment streams that recognize their expanding role.

As libraries provide essential community support, the report calls upon each order of government to increase their investment and provide the tools and resources they need to meet the challenges of this post-pandemic century.

You might also like