The following letter will be submitted to the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Members of the House of Assembly, on behalf of the Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA). NLLA thanks all of the library associations who have shown their support for our province’s libraries.
c/o School of Information Management
Faculty of Management, Dalhousie University
Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building
6100 University Avenue Halifax, NS B3H 3J5
May 3, 2016
RE: Open Letter Regarding the Closure of 54 Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries
The news of the impending cuts to the Newfoundland and Labrador public library system was met with distress and disbelief by the members of our association. APLA represents approximately 400 library workers and library supporters across the Atlantic region. I am writing on their behalf to ask that you reconsider the decision to close 54 of NL’s 95 public libraries.
The importance of public libraries cannot be overstated. They promote literacy by introducing young minds to the joys of reading and the acquisition of knowledge; they are an entry point into the world of lifelong learning; they are safe places for vulnerable members of the community, the young and the old, to engage in wholesome and fulfilling activities; they are meeting places where ideas are shared and plans that further individual and community goals are hatched; they are unique in their mission, providing irreplaceable services to their communities. In short, public libraries improve quality of life for those citizens who have ready access to them.
Even in these difficult economic times, which we certainly acknowledge, it is hard to fathom that such drastic actions are warranted. From newspaper accounts, we understand that the budget reduction goal was one million dollars, and the library closures are presented as providing the necessary savings. However, for dollars saved there are dollars spent on such things as EI and support services for the 64 workers who will lose their livelihood; the impact of lost income on the communities affected; health costs related to stress and other maladies; and the social costs related to educational deficits over time and the weakening of community ties. Is it possible that in the end, the two columns – savings and new expenditures – will cancel each other out? How much money will really be saved?
Each of the libraries slated for closure is the result of community engagement as well as provincial government funding. Their vitality reflects thousands of hours of volunteer work and the direct financial and in kind contributions of the people they serve. They have flourished over many years of constant dedicated effort. Libraries are easier to tear down than to build in the first place, or to rebuild. The damage done, if these closures go ahead, will be irreversible and will make hardly a dent in the province’s bottom line.
The concerns we raise here are not unique to us; in fact, we are certain you share them. We therefore urge you to reconsider these closures – which can only have a devastating impact on affected communities, and we thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
Suzanne van den Hoogen
APLA VP President-Elect
CC: Members of the House of Assembly
UPDATE: APLA received the following response on May 16 from Education Minister, the Hon. Dale Kirby:
“Please see below Minister Dale Kirby’s response to your letter dated May 3, 2016 addressed to the Premier.
Dear Ms. van den Hoogen:
Thank you for your letter of May 3, 2016 addressed to the Premier regarding the recently announced changes to library services in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Premier has asked that I respond on his behalf.
As a result of the province’s current fiscal situation, many difficult decisions had to be made with a focus on long-term fiscal sustainability. With the implementation of the regional library model, the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board’s budget will be reduced by just over $1 million, with approximately $652,000 being reinvested to enhance current services.
The regional library model implementation will occur over a two-year period resulting in 41 libraries remaining across the province and over 85 percent of residents being within a 30 minute drive to the nearest library. There will be reinvestments into these 41 libraries for necessary capital improvements, additional library materials and program offerings; enhancements to the eBooks and books-by-mail services; and implementation of a minimum service standard and operating hours of no less than 30 hours per week. There will also be no change to the current library materials budget so that funding may be reinvested across the remaining libraries.
We understand that these are significant changes, but we feel that once the regional library model is fully implemented we will have a better resourced and effective library model for all residents.
DALE KIRBY, MHA
District of Mount Scio