Delta staff is looking into the regional budgeting process for library services after questions from civic politicians last week.
"I don't personally use the library. I kind of have the feeling that libraries are going the route of the video rental stores but I'm probably... wrong about that," said Coun. Ian Paton. "With the access to information now, with everyone having computers in their home, why do we spend so much money? Do the people out there even know we spent $2.3 million a year of our money to run our libraries in Delta and just how many people use libraries any more?"
Paton raised the question as civic politicians considered a proposed 2.65 per cent increase to Delta's portion of the Fraser Valley Regional Library budget. The increase brings Delta's contribution to $3.19 million for 2013, $82,000 more than last year.
Coun. Jeannie Kanakos, Delta council's liaison to the library board, said the municipality did push back during the budget process and the 2.65 per cent increase is lower than the original figure.
In the end, council did approve the proposed cost increase. However, a request will be sent to the library board for a delegation to appear before council. As well, staff was directed to analyze the library board's fee structure and budgeting process.
The Fraser Valley Regional Library was established in 1930 and its 24 branches serve some 700,000 people. Three of those libraries are in Delta: Ladner Pioneer, George Mackie and Tsawassen.
The Surrey Public Library has nine branches and opened its flagship branch in the city centre in 2011. Its four floors occupy 77,000 square feet.
Are libraries still relevant, with the advent of ebooks?
"We get a lot of people asking that very same question," Surrey's Chief Librarian Melanie Houlden said. "I think so. Our (attendance) figures are still going up."
Last year there were 517,000 visits recorded to the City Centre Library, and 2,452,000 visits to all Surrey's public library branches combined.
Houlden said that while "there's no doubt we are in a transition mode," the internet has become an "important part" of the libraries' toolbox. Many visitors take advantage of technology training programs offered on site.
"That's a big part of what libraries do."