FORT FRANCES—The federal government announced last month it would be cutting Community Access Program (CAP) funding to support public Internet services, but the Fort Frances Public Library board has written a letter asking to have it back.
Library CEO Margaret Sedgwick noted the Fort Frances Public Library has received $3,757 annually from the federal government for a number of years.
“It has allowed us to keep our computers up to date,” she explained. “It’s used for software, it’s used for the purchase of new computers and maintenance contracts.
“[The CAP funding] is very useful and it will be missed,” Sedgwick stressed.
“Every time we lose funding, it’s something that can’t be overlooked,” she added.
CAP funding consists of two parts: for equipment and for student employment.
On the bright side, Sedgwick said the CAP funding earmarked for student employment has been maintained. The local library has had a student who trains people in using the Internet and computers, typically from November through March, each year for the last decade or so.
But there’s no question the equipment funding will be missed. Sedgwick said community access to computers has become an increasingly important function of the library.
“We have approximately 1,200 people using our computers every month, and I think that’s significant,” she remarked.
While this loss of equipment funding will not result in service reductions, Sedgwick warned it could be more even more of an impact in smaller communities.
“They’ve threatened us for years, and this time they’ve brought the axe down, I guess,” said Shirley Sheppard, head librarian at the Emo Public Library, which also serves the Townships of La Vallee and Chapple.
The EPL has two computers, which between January and February saw more than 210 people use them.
Sheppard noted the library computers are used by a range of people, from regular library users who want to print material to tourists, people new to town who haven’t got their Internet hooked up, and those who just can’t afford to have Internet service.
She said the EPL board has written a letter to the Emo, La Vallee, and Chapple councils to lobby Ottawa and get the CAP equipment funding back.
“We’re very disappointed,” Rainy River Public Library CEO Michael Dawber said in a press release. Like Emo and Fort Frances, the RRPL has been getting just over $3,700 each year.
“We’ve been contacting decision-makers for the last year, encouraging them to keep CAP going,” he noted.
“We have no extra money in our budget to make up the loss.”
Dawber said he’s been involved with CAP since 1997, and that his first library job was as a CAP student Internet trainer.
“I know first-hand how many people have benefited from CAP,” he remarked. “Seniors, students, summer residents, job hunters—practically all our customers have been helped in some way by the program.”
Without the funding, Dawber said the RRPL will not be able to update or repair any of its five public Internet stations.
“The equipment we have today is all we will be able to have for the foreseeable future,” he noted.
“When it’s done, there’s no means of replacing it without CAP,” he lamented.
“We hope to continue offering the same level of service and access, but we will probably have to look at the fees we charge for that service,” added Dawber.
“For example, the operating costs of the printer were supported by CAP—that funding is now gone.
“We will probably have to look at our service fees, too,” he said.
The RRPL’s Internet access itself will not be affected by the cutbacks.
(Fort Frances Times)