NLLA was initially pleased that the provincial government kept its promise to consult the public, and that our association was contacted directly by EY, the company hired to conduct the review. Members of NLLA will be meeting with the reviewers in locations across the province this month.
Although we strongly believe in the importance of public consultation and encouraged the public to participate in one of the roundtable sessions and the online survey, we had concerns about the process that the province outlined in its September 30 announcement. NLLA member, Crystal Rose, spoke with media on October 4th, questioning the validity of the consultation process and outlining some of the association’s chief concerns. We were dismayed that there was little advance notice for the public sessions. With less than a week’s notice before the first sessions, we question how the review can gather comprehensive data regarding the proposed library closures.
NLLA is also concerned that none of the libraries slated for possible closure is included on the list of locations for consultation. We strongly urge the reviewers to go directly to the communities that would be affected by the proposed closures, in addition to the ten scheduled public roundtable sessions.
Furthermore, we are gravely concerned by the lack of library representation on the steering committee to whom the consultants will deliver their review. There are no individuals outside of the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board, the body who originally suggested that the best way to deal with the budget deficit was to close 54 libraries, or outside of Provincial government on the steering committee. There are no members of the committee who currently work in public libraries, and no representatives from the province’s library association. There are few librarians and no library staff in the group. It is essential that the views and concerns of librarians and library workers be addressed in the review process.
NLLA was unsurprised by the negative public reaction to the recent roundtable consultation session held in St. John’s this past Thursday evening. Significantly underestimating the number of people who would attend and using a consulting firm to control the discussion with a rigid question and answer format has left the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with the impression that the provincial government is not fully committed to a truly consultative process.
We believe that a review of our province’s public library system is an important task and we strongly encourage the reviewers to widely consult all those who will be affected by the decisions and outcomes of this review.
News coverage of the province’s library consultation process
Government’s library review implodes in spectacular fashion – The Independent, Oct. 7, 2016
Dale Kirby re-evaluating library sessions after angry walkout – CBC News, Oct. 7, 2016
A national disgrace: Heated crowd walks out of public library consultation – CBC News, Oct. 7, 2016
Library Association member questions validity of consultation process – Nor’Wester, Oct. 4, 2016