The announcement of a 58 per cent cut to library budgets has residents in Saskatchewan up in arms – roughly 100 book lovers from the Prince Albert area gathered to show their support on April 7.
A “read-in” was hosted outside of SaskParty MLA Joe Hargrave’s office in Prince Albert along with MLA Doyle Vermette’s office in La Ronge.
“The library system is socially and cognitively important to me,” Nancy Carswell with the Council of Canadians chapter in Prince Albert said.
Carswell estimates she currently has around $450 in materials borrowed from the library in her possession right now. She said the greatest impact she will feel is the loss of the inter-provincial borrowing system.
“I’ll be limited to what’s locally available,” Carswell said. “Right now I can give them the title of the book, I go online and I say ‘Please bring this in’ and within weeks or less, days, it’s there for me.”
Carswell said she would like to see the one per cent corporate tax decrease reversed in favour of saving the cuts to the public library system.
“Corporate tax rates may stimulate the economy… however it’s not a trickle down,” Carswell said. “It never has been, we’ve seen that since the '80s now… the poor are losing ground and the middle class are stagnant.”
Her sentiment was echoed by Prince Albert Ward 2 Councillor Terra Lennox-Zepp.
“The provincial budget made a choice, and the choice was to lower corporate tax,” Lennox-Zepp said. “The income tax was lowered for only the wealthiest of Saskatchewan… A massive mistake on the part of our Saskatchewan government.”
Lennox-Zepp, who said she can be found in the library at least once a month, said she would rather see investment in libraries or school divisions as opposed to infrastructure spending like the West Regina Bypass project.
Gail Anderson, a full time acquisition supervisor of the Wapiti Regional Library said she expects more cuts in the future “if this continues.”
“There’s no way to operate the region the way it has been - we will not be able to provide the same service we have been,” Anderson said. “There will be some type of layoffs, we’re not sure what that is. Thankfully nothing yet.”
She explained the Wapiti Regional Library executive is “scrambling” to restructure the budget which will need the approval of stakeholders in the Wapiti Regional Library system in advance to their annual general meeting later this month.
Anderson feels as though there are misconceptions about the library system. She’s heard the argument libraries are not cost effective, a point she disputes.
“I’m seeing the opposite – they’re very cost efficient,” Anderson said. “Instead of having to have that material, or that copy of a book or that DVD in every location… they know they don’t have to have everything in that library because of that inter-provincial movement. That’s economical, that’s responsible.”
La Ronge read-in supports inter-provincial library system
Sean Stares, the circulation supervisor took his copy of A Book in Every Hand: Public Libraries in Saskatchewan to the read-in at Doyle Vermette’s constituency office.
“I was going to maybe suggest someone have a read of that [book],” Stares said with a laugh. “Public libraries in Regina and Saskatoon are very much supporting us by giving us more access – they’re paying a lot of money to give us access, so we should be supporting them with these budget cuts.”
Stares said he understands Vermette represents the provincial NDP, but he wanted to help get the word out the cuts to libraries are “unacceptable.”
He said the inter-provincial program cuts coming on Monday, April 10 are going to be felt hard in La Ronge, bringing the total materials accessible to residents from three million items to 40,000. He said the system is one of the most used features in the Alex Robertson Public Library.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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