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The Calgary Public Library's Sun Life Financial Arts + Culture Pass

Calgary Public Library, AB
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Innovation Summary

Great cities provide opportunities for everyone, including those who cannot afford them. This made-in-Calgary initiative opens doors to art, culture, theatre and performance for low income families and individuals. Partnering with City of Calgary’s Recreation Fee Assistance program tickets are placed directly in the hands of Calgarians in financial need.

Problem Statement

For 100 years, the Calgary Public Library’s programs and services have enriched lives and built community by ensuring universal access to resources for information, learning, inspiration and enjoyment. The City of Calgary’s, “Calgary & Region Social Outlook 2009-2014,” indicates a trend of increasing unemployment, an erosion of income and a decrease in spending on cultural and recreational pursuits. This is demonstrated in the increasing number of low income Calgarians enrolled in the City of Calgary’s Fee Assistance Program on an annual basis. The Sun Life Financial Arts + Culture Pass program addresses the projected increased demand for free or low-cost cultural activities and provides an opportunity for the Calgary Public Library to enhance services to Calgarians experiencing barriers to recreation and cultural experiences.


The Library works in partnership with the City of Calgary Recreation Fee Assistance program, which qualifies Calgarians for financial support using the Low-Income Cut Off threshold. This enables the Library and its 21 arts and culture partners to reach and support low income Calgarians with donated tickets to arts and culture events and venues. Generous funding was supplied by Sun Life Financial to develop and implement the program. How it Works: Event tickets and admission passes are received from partner organizations and distributed to each of the Library’s 18 locations. Attractive program displays installed in every Library contain 1. Vouchers representing each of the Partner organizations 2. An event listing advertising what event tickets are currently available, and 3. Information on how customers can access the tickets. To acquire tickets, customers: • Find an event they would like to attend from the event listing. • Select the voucher with the presenting partner’s logo. • Take the voucher to the customer service desk, along with their City of Calgary Recreation Fee Assistance card and their Calgary Public Library card Vouchers are catalogued for circulation. Library staff check out the voucher to the customer’s library card and provide the customer with the free tickets/passes. Customers are asked to share feedback about their experience with the Library and our partner organizations. Program Ambassadors which are established at each Library provide in-Library program coordination help and support. This role also serves a valuable communications function collecting program participant feedback and key learnings to improve upon the program.


The goals of the program are to: • To improve the quality of life of financially-barriered Calgarians through access to arts and culture experiences • To increase civic participation and social inclusion of all Calgarians while enhancing cultural vibrancy • To increase access and connection between Calgary arts and culture organizations and underrepresented audiences Results to date: • Sun Life Financial Arts + Culture Pass program established at all 18 Calgary Public Library locations • 21 local arts and culture partners were secured within first year • In-kind donation of event tickets and admission passes in the first year equaled a value of $111,642.88 • More than 1,577 event tickets/admission passes were distributed and utilized by 3,317 individual within the program’s first five months An impact statement from one of the program participants: “Dance is a huge part of life enjoyment – it makes me stronger! Thank you so much for this opportunity to see the ballet. An unfortunate life event has put me in the position of being unable to provide myself with many things…just when you need them most! I’m so grateful for this opportunity. Words cannot explain how much this means to me.”