Wednesday, 05 April 2017 15:08

Sask. gov’t should learn something from library situation

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I am writing to express my great concern over the Saskatchewan government’s decision to cut funding to Saskatchewan’s rural regional library system by 58 per cent.
I live in Val Marie, Sask. and am a member of the Chinook Regional Library System.
In this library system alone, there are 32 rural public libraries and 14 corner libraries. Small communities such as these will not be able to make up the funding shortfall. If these budget cuts are implemented, they will bring about the end of libraries in Saskatchewan as we know them.
Minister of Education Don Morgan has been reported as having said the government “should be getting out of bricks and mortar libraries” and that “Saskatchewan has too many libraries.”
This statement shows a lack of understanding of the many services libraries provide and the many reasons Saskatchewan people have for depending on libraries. It also shows a lack of understanding about the importance of Saskatchewan’s library system to rural areas and to the Saskatchewan residents who depend on it.
Don Morgan and Premier Brad Wall may not be aware that Saskatchewan’s rural regional library system has a history reaching back more than 100 years.
They may not be aware the Saskatchewan system has long been used as a model in the development of every other rural library system in Canada. They may not be aware of the number of people Saskatchewan’s rural regional library systems affect.
Last year alone, the Chinook Regional Library system, headquartered in Swift Current, circulated almost 300,000 items and issued 1,200 new library cards. About 664 local children read 8,000 books and participated in 92 free library events with the TD summer reading club. The Internet was accessed 22,800 times in these rural public libraries. As well, the small rural communities throughout Chinook Regional Library depend on public libraries for Internet access to online banking, as well as access to online government services and for submitting online job applications to businesses. Last year, the Internet was accessed 22,800 times in our rural public libraries. Minister Morgan has offered alternative facts to these. I think everyone should take steps to make sure Mr. Morgan is speaking accurately.
This kind of use is repeated throughout the province in seven rural regional library systems. None of it would have been possible without the “bricks and mortar libraries” Don Morgan thinks the current government should no longer support. I can’t conceive of an ideology that thinks only people who can afford to buy them should have books. I don’t understand why our government doesn’t want to support readers.
If these budget cuts go ahead, this government will be remembered as one that killed a Sask. library system that had worked and served as a model for generations. Is this the legacy they want?
Laureen Marchand, Val Marie

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