A $1.2 Million cut to the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries was announced last week. Education Minister, Clyde Jackman, indicated that library hours would be affected and some administrative jobs would be lost, but it was unlikely that the money to purchase books and other resources would be touched (CBC, March 27, 2013).
Today, five professional librarians have been laid off, effective immediately, and others have been forced to take cuts in pay and hours. A number of library support staff positions, including several in information technology, have also been cut.
That leaves only nine librarians to manage the 96 public libraries in the province.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association is appalled at the short sightedness of this decision. Without specially trained and educated librarians and library support staff, who will select and purchase the books and library resources from the remaining budget? How will libraries continue to offer programs that facilitate lifelong learning and support communities? How will those dependent on public libraries for internet access be able to access essential, online government services? Where will youth seek assistance critical to success in their education and literacy? These questions take on additional urgency in already under-serviced rural areas.
We recognize that the province is making some difficult financial choices. The Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association is disappointed that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador fails to understand the direct link between an informed and literate public and a prosperous economy yet again and the essential roles libraries play in this province.