Nova Scotians will have better access to new and improved books selections, research materials, and technological advancements thanks to $1 million in additional provincial support for public libraries announced today, April 4. “The funding we’re announcing today recognizes how vital our libraries are to communities provincewide,” Premier Rodney MacDonald said during a visit to a public library in Dartmouth. “Libraries have a large role to play in helping keep Nova Scotians educated, competitive and on the cutting edge.” The funding is in addition to the amount that libraries will receive as part of the 2006-07 budget. Each library will determine how their share of funding will be used. For example the extra funding will enable the Cumberland Regional Library to purchase a new van to deliver books to its seven branches. The library logs more than 45,000 kilometres a year, mostly on secondary roads, to provide outreach services to clients and transport thousands of books to branches throughout the county. “A brand new, all-wheel drive vehicle was just a dream for us,” said Frances Newman, chief librarian of Cumberland Regional Library. “Now we can afford to safely transport staff and materials even during the treacherous winter months. This way we are able to share more of our resources throughout the region so more clients can benefit from our collections.” In addition to providing funding, the Department of Education co-ordinates and negotiates, on behalf of public libraries, the purchase of such innovative resources as the World Book Online. This new service gives any Nova Scotian with a public library card free access to a web-based version of the World Book Encyclopedia, whether at home, at work or in a library. It would be difficult for smaller libraries to purchase this type of resource without such a powerful purchasing consortium. Additional recent initiatives to enhance library services include a major software upgrade to help make it easier for public libraries to manage their collections and for library users to peruse the virtual stacks. Nova Scotia’s Provincial Library helps co-ordinate public library services and is a division of the higher education branch of the Department of Education. It will soon launch a series of public meetings around the province to discuss the future of libraries. The consultations are all part of the strategic planning that is currently underway to help improve client services. Public library websites will feature the date, time and place of the public consultations, which are expected to start mid-April. There are nine regional library boards operating 77 branches and seven mobile libraries. The Department of Education contributed $10.7 million to public libraries in 2005-06. The funding of public libraries is shared by the province, municipalities and library boards.