Wednesday, 26 April 2017 11:49

Sask. library supporters not quiet about the budget cuts

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The Saskatchewan government and more specifically Education Minister Don Morgan blinked.

Cue all of the clichés, the Saskatchewan provincial government didn’t have a chance on this one.
“Knowledge is power;” “the power of the pen;” “the pen is mightier than the sword”— they are all appropriate. 
On April 24, the Saskatchewan provincial government reversed its decision on its plan to drastically cut provincial funding to libraries by close to 60 per cent. Since they first announced these cuts, the ire has been drawn province-wide including protests at local Sask. Party MLA offices, letters to the editor in newspapers and social media posts.
On Monday, the government said libraries would be given the additional $4.8 million which was cut in the budget, including the $3.5 million which went out to libraries in the rural areas.
While there was probably a lot of work done by local library administrators to try and drastically cut their budgets and many others had some anxious moments due expected job losses, local libraries probably had some employees who were understandably exceptionally louder than the stereotype of libraries in days gone by.
It’s these type of stereotypes which hurt the government. Libraries are just books, card catalogues and “Please be quiet” signs.
For whatever reason government underestimated how much pushback they would get when people realized how much damage this was going to cause in accessing books from their library or other Saskatchewan libraries with the wonderful interprovincial system they have. As well all of the free programs, which range from learning how to use a computer and its programs better, quilting, toddler to tweens’ social and educational programs and even adults ones which talk about everything between 3-D printing and various aspects of the law, were going to be impacted.
What Morgan and the faceless bean counters failed to understand (or they were just testing to gauge public sentiment depending on how you view it) is that libraries are more than just books. Libraries are a community hubs.
In the rural area, there was an outcry because the library is a place where people can access knowledge and entertainment at their fingertips. They can flip through pages and not stare at some sort of electronic screen.
Besides the now unnecessary angst caused by the budget hacking and reinstating of the funding, the government as raised the ire of residents. All of a sudden, after the ‘save the libraries’ protests, then came the don’t sell the crown corporations.
While the government probably won back some support and gratitude those governing listened to them so people feel like they made a difference; Brad Wall et al now have everybody more carefully scrutinizing their actions. Any decisions made in the future will have to be made carefully or at the least be much better explained and planned or else they will see another decrease in their popularity according to the polls.
 U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove once said, “My childhood library was small enough not to be intimidating and yet I felt the whole world was contained in those two rooms. I could walk any aisle and smell wisdom.”
Those people grew up and showed they learned a thing or two about organizing a protest.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor