Do you use your public library for Internet access? That could be about to change. At the beginning of April, Industry Canada announced that they have ended the funding for the Community Access Program. This program had been operating since 1995 to help connect Canadians to the Internet by funding public access computers in places such as public libraries.
The Canadian Library Association is dismayed at this announcement and released a statement in response. Industry Canada says 79% of Canadians now have Internet access at home, and many can also get online access through their smart phone. However, the Canadian Library Association points out that only 54% of households in the lowest income quartile have home Internet access, so community-based Internet access is still needed. The BC Library Association also issued a statement, describing the funding cuts as “a blow to some of the country’s most vulnerable and remote communities.”
While a few larger public libraries in BC have announced that they’ll continue to provide public access computers, there are real concerns that many libraries in smaller communities will no longer have the resources to provide public access computers.
At Courthouse Libraries BC, we’re also dismayed that funding for the CAP program has ended. We work closely with public libraries in BC through our Law Matters program. We help them to develop legal collections for the public, and provide training for librarians on using Clicklaw to answer legal information questions. Our recently released consultation report, Talking to Librarians about LawMatters: Promising Practices, confirms that people use public access computers in public libraries for many purposes, including to access legal information, to complete court forms, and to apply for federal and provincial government programs. Ending the funding for these public access computers will have a negative impact on many communities in BC and across Canada.
The Nova Scotia CAP Association has launched a campaign to save the Community Access Program, called Save CAP. They’re asking people to contact their MP to say why they value this program. We encourage you to check out their website and have your say.