The Jake Epp Library in Steinbach is looking to become a regional library.

Board Chair Jacqui Broesky says they have discussed the idea with Council for the Rural Municipality of Hanover. Broesky says the two sides met last week, when the idea was introduced.  

Currently, Steinbach residents are not charged to have a library card. Rather, because they pay taxes, this is one of the benefits they receive. 

However, Broesky says residents of Hanover are charged $95 for a library card. The municipality will reimburse $30 of that cost. 

As a result, Broesky says the library definitely hears from Hanover residents that are either upset or disappointed with having to pay these fees. She notes the library board has presented a plan to Hanover, which, if approved, would mean their residents would no longer be paying for their cards. Broesky says for some Hanover residents, even paying $65 for their library card, is more than they can afford. 

Broesky explains that they presented three different scenarios to Hanover. She notes becoming a regional library would certainly increase their costs as it would mean more staff would need to be hired, additional books would need to be added to their circulation and there would be additional services being offered. 

"There are a lot more costs involved," she says. 

Broesky says based on the three scenarios, the minimum that Hanover would be expected to contribute would be $172,000 annually. By comparison, the city of Steinbach contributes $395,000 annually. Broesky says for $172,000 annually, Hanover residents would then no longer be required to pay $95 for their library card, similar to the offer that exists today for Steinbach residents.

"What regionalization would mean is that not only would Steinbach residents get free library services, but the RM of Hanover would now be included in that," she adds. 

Hanover Reeve Jim Funk says $172,000 is substantially more than what Hanover contributes today. He notes their annual grant is about $2,000 to the library. In addition to that, as mentioned, Hanover pays $30 for every membership taken out by its residents. Funk says that works out to approximately $17,000 annually. 

Broesky says if they become a regional library, one of the services that could be expanded into Hanover is their Book Mobile. She notes this is essentially a library on wheels that travels around to the different personal care homes in Steinbach. 

"The book mobile shows up, they will unload and set up a whole library," she explains. "Residents at those personal care homes can come and browse, check out the books that they want and then everything is packed up."

Broesky says a regional library would mean this Book Mobile could then be made available to a place like Menno Home in Grunthal. 

Broesky says another one of the advantages to being a regional library is there is more government funding available. In fact, the funding increases with every municipality that comes on board. 

As mentioned, last week's meeting was about planting the seed and getting the discussion started. Broesky suggests that if there are residents in Hanover that would benefit from a regional library, that they get in touch with their councillor and make their wishes known. 

Meanwhile, Funk says Council will have to discuss the proposal and decide whether this is something it wants to proceed with.


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