While 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.
NLLA President, 2016-17