July 17th, 2024

MHPL seeking ways to reach current non-users

By Samantha Johnson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 24, 2023.

Sam and Steve Allison do a craft at the Medicine Hat Public Library in this May 2019 file photo. An annual survey shows users are generally happy with the services provided and available.--NEWS FILE PHOTO


The Medicine Hat Public Library once again got high scores on its annual survey. However, as chief librarian Ken Feser pointed out, 90% of respondents have a library card so those completing the survey are already library users.

“The thing we think about is these are our users so we wonder about the wider community who isn’t using us. What are the barriers and what do they think of the place? We are happy with it but at the same time it’s not the whole story.”

Overall, those who completed the survey are happy with MHPL, with 83% saying it was important to them, 40% being amazed and another 40% feeling satisfied. A total of 83% said the quality of the service provided by staff is excellent.

Just 10% of the respondents didn’t have a library card, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t use the facility. Non-members can get a guest pass to use computers or printing. The primary restriction is that no materials can be checked out for those without a card.

“It’s an important distinction,” added Feser. “The law of the library under provincial legislation is we cannot charge for basic library services or use of the facilities. When we charged for library cards (before a sponsorship program started) the library couldn’t require that you had a card to enter the building. That would be a barrier. It’s a public facility so anybody is welcome here.”

Several years ago, there was a rumour circulating about another branch being built in the south end of the city. Feser explained the city is at the right size to require another branch and there are issues, such as parking, with the downtown location. The board did have a plan of service at that time and had another branch as a goal; however, it wasn’t well received at the municipal level and no funding was forthcoming.

Currently, the discussion revolves around providing services in the south without having to build a branch.

“Even if tomorrow, we got funding and someone gave us money or land to build a branch it would be years before that came online. We want to do something now,” said Feser.

In the north, at the Big Marble Go Centre, MHPL provides a pop-up library on select days. Staff bring out parts of the collection and do some programming from 10 a.m. until noon. The next pop-up library is scheduled for Mar. 4 and there will be three the following month on Apr. 1, 15 and 29 at the same times.

“We are interested in doing something like that in the south,” stated Feser. “There’s not such an obvious location as there is in the north end of the city. That is part of the conversation: where would we do this and what form would it take? The board is really interested in doing something sooner rather than later in the south end.”

See Saturday’s News for what’s new at MHPL in 2023.

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