By Camille Aubin

The largest-ever budget for the Public Library of Invermere was recently announced by Invermere mayor Al Miller in an effort to recognize employee dedication during a year tainted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would like to acknowledge your effort as a team. The library is so much more than picking up a book. Thank you for the services that you provide for Invermere and the entire valley,” said Miller to the library staff.

Miller said that the library is lucky to have high-powered board members on hand to help them out. “I heard from them frequently,” added Miller, laughing. “Greg Anderson (the Invermere council member who sits on the library board), his commitment to the library is strong and thank you for doing that. Thank you to the board for educating me.”

Operating grants from the district of Invermere and the Regional District of East Kootenay make up the majority of the budget for the Invermere Public Library. Additionally, the library receives funding from the province.

“It was wonderful news,” said Anne Rogers, library director. “We made the same funding request last year but didn’t receive it. So it (the request) went through again. I’m absolutely delighted. It was wonderful to hear Miller make that announcement. To know that there’s going to be an increase in our operating budget gives us that stable foundation, and that’s huge for us.”

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the library in many different ways. “We had to go to a skeleton staff. So we’ve lost our volunteers and one of our staff members because we weren’t able to provide the programming that, prior to the pandemic, required the extra staff,” said Rogers. A brighter future awaits the library now that funding has been approved. The library hopes to resume its full schedule of 48 hours a week and the in-person programming when the COVID-19 restrictions ease.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Invermere library decided to add new e-books and e-audiobooks to its collection. “You could be waiting for several months before it’s your turn to borrow it (the physical copy) and so by purchasing (e-books) specifically for our library, we were able to reduce the wait times for items,” said Rogers. The library also purchased two Kobo e-readers for the community member to sign out. “When people were not able to access books physically for a little while, we thought okay, let’s try it.”

The library still offers many programs; browsing and borrowing, interlibrary program, story time with a pick -p craft kit, virtual book clubs for teens and adults, reading challenges, income tax programs, access to computers, printing, scanning and faxing, and more.

When asked if programs will be returning in the near future, Rogers explained “We are really optimistic about resuming in-person programming. We partner with CBAL, they have early years programs. We had a baby goose program that was really well attended. We had book clubs, seniors programs… Hopefully one day we’ll be able to be in-person, just like we did before. “

Regarding the library personnel, Rogers mentioned “They’ve been amazing and creative and dedicated throughout this whole period the library. Staff took up the challenge of finding ways to continue to serve the community while maintaining the welcoming culture that is so important to all of us.”

Rogers also wanted to make sure that the Friends of Library gets recognition too, specifying that the nonprofit group did a tremendous job with the Silent Auction this past Christmas. Everything was organized and set to go, and then, the next day, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that anything that involved bringing people together was forbidden under the new health orders. “They right away decided to take it online and it was overwhelmingly successful,” said Rogers.

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