Higher postal rate may hurt library

  • Oct. 29, 2003 3:00 p.m.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library and its branches on the islands could be left scrambling to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra mail charges if Canada Post increases its special book rate, says local library representative Carol Kulesha.
The book rate allows public libraries and academic libraries across Canada to mail books at a fraction of the regular parcel rate. But the rate is up for re-negotiation next year, and Vancouver Island Regional Library reps are crossing their fingers that it doesn’t go up dramatically, or get removed altogether.
“There will be huge implications for our library rates,” Ms Kulesha said. “It will be a big deal if we don’t get it.”
Without the book rate, the cost of mailing library materials between VIRL branches would skyrocket to $1.5-million from next year’s estimated cost of $200,000, library board chair Tom Krall wrote to Skeena MP Andy Burton.
Mr. Krall asked the MP for his help in urging both the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Sheila Copps, and the president of Canada Post, Andre Oullet, to maintain the current rate. (The new rate will be renegotiated by the Department of Canadian Heritage and Canada Post).
A second issue is the expansion of the library book rate to include non-print materials like CDs, videos and DVDs. Right now, the VIRL must pay parcel post rates to mail these kinds of audiovisual materials to library users.
“It is important to the people living in rural areas to be able to access not only print materials but the many informational, recreational and educational audiovisual materials now provided by libraries,” Mr. Krall wrote. “Like print materials, it would be advantageous to have them included in the material that can be sent using the library rate.”
VIRL executive director Penny Grant said the library board is thinking about gathering signatures on a petition in support of a low book rate which could be presented to the House of Commons. People concerned about this issue can also write to the MP or MLA, she suggests.
Meanwhile, the VIRL is responding to twice as many book requests as it did five years ago, since library users can now make requests directly from their home computers over the internet, Ms Grant said.
“It’s such a great service,” she said. “You can still access exactly the same books as someone in the city, even if you live in a rural area.”
However, it has increased mailing costs. The VIRL is now considering buying a van to deliver material between branches on the east coast of Vancouver Island, instead of mailing them, Ms Grant said. However, material will still need to be mailed to the branches on the Central Coast and the Charlottes.
The Vancouver Island Regional Library system serves 37 communities with a population of about 400,000.