Thursday, August 14, 2008

Trying to understand under-funding: Toronto Public Library vs Library and Archives Canada

Ask almost anybody in the archives or library sector if they need more funding and the answer will be yes. One could argue that this is simply professional self-interest, but I find that to be an inadaquete answer. I think most people in the field genuinely think that greater financial resources would help them provide greater services to the public and that all of society would benefit. I wonder if there is some reasonable level that both laypeople and professionals could agree to? Obviously no government is going to agree to spend all of its funds on the cultural sector and zero spending generally isn't regarded as an option either. One way to get this conversation started might be to look at per capita funding which can provide some relative information.

Note: Service area is meant to denote the organization's primary or legislated georgraphical service area, although certainly there will be users from outside that area.

Library and Archives Canada
Service area: Canada
Service population: 33 million (according to StatsCan
Annual budget (2006-2007): 175 million (source
Per Capita: $5.30 per person (approximately)

Toronto Public Library
Service area: Toronto
Service Population: 2.4 million (Source)
Annual budget: (Annual Public Report 2007 171 million
Per Capita Spending: $71.25 per person (approximately)

Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management
Service Area: Nova Scotia
Service Population: 0.93 million (a href="">source
Annual budget: 2.2 million
Per Capita Spending: $2.36 per person (approximately)

Interesting to think about that. One could critique the very rough analysis I did above on any number of grounds (e.g. archives and libraries serve different populations, the data come from different years etc) but it does provide a very rough way to attempt to compare these kinds of organizations. I've met people who consider LAC to be very under resourced and the above comparison would lend some weight to that guess. This kind of thought experiment is also part of an effort to understand administration to a greater degree and to support advocacy.

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