First Nations Public Libraries in Ontario

 
  • First Nations communities require public libraries just as much as any other community.
  • Public libraries often serve as an accessible gathering place and information sharing resource for many First Nations communities, where they exist.
  • There is broad recognition and support for the concept of continuing education at the community level as well as increased accessibility to all educational outlets, including public libraries
  • There are 133 First Nations communities in Ontario. Of these, only 46 have public libraries.

Funding Ontario’s First Nations Public Libraries

  • The traditional source of tax revenue for non-native public libraries does not exist for public libraries in First Nations communities.
  • Provincial funding for these libraries is administered by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport through the Public Library Operating Grant (PLOG) and the First Nation Salary Supplement Grant (FNSS). These funds provide on average $15,000/year to each of these existing libraries.
  • Federal funding for these libraries is taken from funds that are allocated for on-reserve education. Funding levels for on-reserve education are more than 30% lower than off-reserve, leaving little left to establish new libraries.
  • Band Councils are therefore tasked with providing essential support such as rent, hydro, internet, fax and telephone service.

Challenges Faced by Ontario’s First Nations Public Libraries

  • First Nations public libraries are either governed by their Band
    Council or their education department. The location of the library in
    the school system can make it difficult to establish a public library
    identity in the community.
  • A significant number of First Nations people don’t own or have
    access to a computer or the internet. Many cannot afford to buy books
    for themselves or families.
  • Ontario’s First Nations students under the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada system face an 80% failure rate
  • Students who participated in provincial standardized testing in
    2013-2014 showed an average literacy score of 21% for boys and 32% for
    girls.
  • In terms of overall literacy, these numbers place Ontario First
    Nations students behind 205 other countries — at levels slightly higher
    than Sub-Saharan Africa.