BCLTA Governance Workbook: BC Public Libraries

BC first established legislation for public libraries in 1891, acknowledging that public libraries are an important community asset that make a difference to the social and economic development of the province. Today there are 71 public libraries and 6 library federations (see Library Federations).

The history of BC public libraries is vibrant, diverse, and reflective of community expectations for equitable access to the tools and resources for learning, leisure, and participation in the benefits of social and technological change.

The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia (2011) by Dave Obee is a good overview, with fascinating photos, of the rich history of BC public libraries. As well, your library may have its own history page on the library’s website or an archive of photos, annual reports, and board meeting minutes for you to review.

Public libraries are established and governed by the Library Act and its regulations. Library boards are separate corporate entities from local government. Boards have powers and duties granted by the Act (except for integrated library systems). Local governments typically provide the majority of public library funding and are key stakeholders in each library and in the provincial public library system.

The Province of British Columbia, through the Public Libraries Branch in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs,  administers the Act, supports province-wide services, and allocates funding for the improvement and extension of local services.

Public libraries, staff, and trustees are further supported by service partners and professional associations. These include the Library Federations, the British Columbia Library Association, the BC Libraries Cooperative, and the Association of BC Public Library Directors.