Letter from NLLA on the Suspension of the Library Closures

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nllalogoWhile the announcement of the suspension of the library closures, which would have seen 54 of 95 branches close over the next 2 years, is encouraging, there are still a number of questions and concerns. NLLA has written the following letter, reiterating the need for a transparent process and offering assistance in the external review.

Dear Minister Kirby,

Irreparable damage would be caused to the communities and citizens of this province by the closure of over half of our libraries. It is not a matter that should be taken lightly and we are encouraged by your recent announcement to suspend the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library closures. The reaction against the proposed cuts has been overwhelming and we are pleased that you have acknowledged the concerns by holding the cuts until further examination of the library system is conducted.

It is essential that a holistic and transparent assessment of the NLPL system is undertaken to fully understand the implications of the suggested cuts and to identify the best future for the library system. Although the formation of an external committee to complete an assessment is a positive step forward, the NLLA would also like to stress the importance of consultations with communities, librarians and library workers, and stakeholders when conducting this analysis.

Communities have been fighting on behalf of their libraries since the closures were announced. Not only must they have a voice in the process, their needs and concerns must be taken into account in the final report. Consultation and transparency will be key for success.

Furthermore, librarians and other library professionals are essential to this process, and our expertise should be used to its fullest during the course of this review. Our association members have graduate degrees in Library Science and other academic credentials, plus years of experience as librarians and library workers. As professionals in our field, we have many professional connections, both within the province and nationally. We would also be pleased to suggest names for consideration for the committee. Our association is eager to assist the committee directly and through our network of library professionals.

Subsequent to the initial announcement, it has come to light that the firm EY will be conducting the external review. This firm is most commonly associated with financial reviews. While we understand that the financial situation of the province is dire, it is important to recognize not only the financial side of the library system but also the underlying values libraries bring and support, including all forms of literacy and social values, to their communities. Therefore, it is even more important that the members of the external committee can understand, explain and communicate these values.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library system has been chronically underfunded, but we remain optimistic that a thoughtful and comprehensive assessment will lead to an improved library system worthy of the citizens of this province. We look forward to being a part of this process and are happy to meet with you, members of the NLPL system and the PILRB, and the external committee to discuss the future of our libraries.

Sincerely

Krista Godfrey
NLLA President, 2016-17

NLLA President Comments on Library Closure Review: We Need to Address Chronic Underfunding

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NLLA President, Krista Godfrey

NLLA President, Krista Godfrey

NLLA President, Krista Godfrey, spoke to CBC today about the provincial government’s announcement that it would be suspending the public library closures until a review can be done. Godfrey told CBC, “The best plan would have been to make an informed decision and have a transparent process, and obviously that’s not what happened to begin with, but better to realize that a mistake was made.”

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from communities, they’ve been very upset, kind of blindsided by this decision, so I think this will give them a chance to actually have their voice heard, which is excellent.” CBC reported that Godfrey said it’s vital now to ensure the committee conducting the review looks at individual libraries to make informed decisions if they move ahead with closing any of the locations.

“Libraries are great equalizers, they are part of people’s lives from birth to death,” she said.

“One of the things I’m hoping will come out in this review is how underfunded this system is and will show that in order to provide the best system, we need to address the chronic underfunding that has happened.”

Read the full CBC article.

Public Library Closures Suspended

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Great news today as the government announced that they will be suspending the library closures. According to the announcement, “an external assessment that contemplates the full impact a library has on its community” and a steering committee will be formed to lead this review. We’re pleased by this move towards an informed and transparent assessment of the library system and look forward to positive outcomes.

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Support your Library

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Wondering how to support your library? We’ve put together a few resources to get you started!

Already supporting your library? Let us know what you’re doing!

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Book & Periodical Council Says Book Tax & Library Cuts will Hurt the People of NL

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Book and Periodical Council Canada’s Book and Periodical Council (BPC) has issued a statement urging the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to abolish the new 10% sales tax on books and find ways to keep all of the province’s public libraries open. In a letter to Premier Ball, BPC says they believe that the combination of these two actions will hurt more than help people in the province.

BPC says:

“Our members expect the following effects:

  • a decline in revenue for booksellers, publishers and authors
  • a decline in the number of books published in the province
  • the loss of $1 million in annual funding for the library board
  • the loss of 64 library jobs
  • the reduction of access to books and libraries for children and seniors
  • the denial of public access to libraries and the Internet in rural areas
  • the persistence of illiteracy among poorer and more isolated citizens

The Book and Periodical Council is the umbrella organization for Canadian associations that are or whose members are primarily involved with the writing, editing, translating, publishing, producing, distributing, lending, marketing, reading and selling of written words. Their members represent approximately 6,000 individuals and 5,500 firms and institutions.

The 10% book tax is set to come into effect on July 1, 2016, and the sales tax on most books will rise to 15% on January 1, 2017, which will make Newfoundland the first province in Canada to tax books.

Open Letter from APLA Regarding New 10% Tax on Books

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book taxThe announcement that the Newfoundland & Labrador Government will be implementing a 10% provincial book tax, making us set to become the first province in Canada to tax books on July 1, has been met by criticism from authors, publishers, retailers, libraries, educators and other supporters of literacy. On June 20, the Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA), added its voice, sending a letter to the Premier of Newfoundland & Labrador urging him to reconsider.

Dear Premier:

This is the second time I write to you in a matter of weeks. The first letter was prompted by the announcement of the phased closure of 54 public libraries in Newfoundland & Labrador, a decision that we dare to hope is being revisited. I am now writing, at the request of the APLA Membership, with regards to the new 10% tax on books to be imposed beginning July 1, 2016.

The decision on the part of your government to tax reading can only be viewed as a misguided policy formulated in a desperate attempt to balance a budget. That the new tax on books, which will make reading material unaffordable for many residents of your province, is to be followed by the closure of more than half of the province’s public libraries is a very real threat to the future economic health of the province. In a world that requires more highly-educated and skilled workers than ever before, placing the tools of learning out of reach is a recipe for disaster. And contrary to popular opinion, everything is not freely available online, nor do all people have access to computers and the Internet.

Everyone will be affected by the imposition of this tax – the writers, the publishers, the booksellers, and the readers (including students). The Newfoundland book industry will suffer as fewer Newfoundland books are published and sold and therefore fewer read. Education and literacy will also suffer as all reading materials become more expensive.

Newfoundland has the singular distinction of producing more fine writers per capita than any other province in Canada. Wayne Johnston, Kathleen Winter, Michael Crummey, Lisa Moore, Joan Clark, Anne Hart, Rex Murphy, Gwynne Dyer, and Donna Morrissey, to name a few, are known across the country. They bring positive attention to Newfoundland & Labrador in the same measure as they themselves are treasured by reading and thinking Canadians everywhere. They tell the stories of a unique land and people, such that they make Canadians from all parts of the country want to visit St. John’s and Ferryland, Cooney Arm and Ragged Rock, Gander and Corner Brook, and everything in between. They are your best ambassadors. Everything should be done to ensure the sustainability and continued dynamism of the book industry in the province such that your stories will continue to be told and widely-disseminated.

Rick Mercer, with his usual panache, said it best when in a rant, he pointed to taxation as a tool of government to curb undesirable behaviours, using taxes on cigarettes and smoking as an example. The message is clear: the unintended consequence of taxing books is to curb reading, which, unlike smoking, is a very desirable behaviour that benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Mercer went on to say that “…when you are increasing taxes on books, you are accepting the fact that fewer books will be sold. And so it is an attack on literacy, there’s no other way to look at it.”

I have no doubt reiterated arguments that you have heard already about the negative impacts of a tax on books, but that makes them no less true. On behalf of the approximately 400 library workers and library supporters who make up the Atlantic Provinces Library Association, I entreat you to reconsider your decision.

Sincerely,
Suzanne van den Hoogen
APLA President 2016-17
cc: Members of the House of Assembly

NLLA Supports Public Library Information Pickets

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CUPE and NLLA members outside A.C. Hunter Public Library

CUPE and NLLA members outside A.C. Hunter Public Library

Earlier today, CUPE Local 2329 organized demonstrations at six libraries in the province to protest drastic provincial budget cuts including the closure of more than half of the province’s public libraries. Demonstrations were held at Corner Brook Public Library, Kindale Public Library in Stephenville, Harmsworth Public Library in Grand Falls-Windsor, A.C. Hunter Public Library in St. John’s, Mount Pearl Public Library, and Labrador City Public Library. Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library workers handed out pamphlets and buttons that read “Premier Ball: Closing Libraries is just like burning books!”

Many library users stopped to show their support for libraries and to take buttons, including NDP leader Earle McCurdy.

Closing Libraries is just like burning books!

NDP Leader, Earle McCurdy, showing support for newfoundland and Labrador public libraries

NDP Leader, Earle McCurdy, showing support for libraries

Library workers at A.C Hunter Public Library

Library workers at A.C Hunter Public Library

Library workers distributing buttons & pamphlets at A.C Hunter Public Library

Library workers distributing buttons & pamphlets

CUPE worker, Catherine Hynes, at Corner Brook Public Library

CUPE worker, Catherine Hynes, at Corner Brook Public Library

NLPL workers distributing buttons & pamphlets in Corner Brook

NLPL workers distributing buttons & pamphlets in Corner Brook

Some of the facts being distributed by CUPE included:

  • “54 libraries to close…to save less than Ed Martin’s severance package”
  • “Savings per branch a paltry $18,500”
  • “Are the people of Fogo Island and the 53 other communities that are losing their libraries worth $18,500 a year?

CUPE and NLLA encourage library supporters in this province to contact Education Minister Dale Kirby and let your voice be heard:

Telephone: 709-729-5040
Email: dalekirby@gov.nl.ca
Twitter: @DaleGKirby
Facebook: Dale.Kirby