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.
Category Archives: Public Libraries
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.
“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.
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.
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:
CUPE Local 2329 has organized demonstrations at six libraries in the province today to protest drastic provincial budget cuts including the closure of more than half of the province’s public libraries.
Demonstrations will be held at the following locations today:
- Corner Brook Public Library, from 12-1:30 p.m.
- Kindale Public Library in Stephenville, from 12-1 p.m.
- Harmsworth Public Library in Grand Falls-Windsor, from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
- A.C. Hunter Public Library in St. John’s, from 1-2 p.m.
- Mount Pearl Public Library, from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
- Labrador City Public Library, from 1-2 p.m.
Public library workers will be giving out stickers and buttons during the Information Pickets. NLLA encourages all library supporters to attend.
Last month, the Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA), submitted a letter to the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Members of the House of Assembly, urging them to reconsider the closure of over half of the province’s public libraries. They received a response from Education Minister Dale Kirby on the Premier’s 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.”
On June 10, APLA President, Suzanne van den Hoogen, responded with the following rebuttal, expressing disappointment with the Minister’s letter as well as remarks made to the press:
Dear Mr. Kirby:
Thank you for your email of May 16th, responding on behalf of Premier Ball to my letter concerning the projected closure of more than half of Newfoundland and Labrador public libraries. You will understand that the APLA membership was disappointed with your response to our expressed concerns. A resolution was carried at our Ordinary General Meeting, held June 1st in Halifax, NS tasking me to respond to your email. I also wish to comment on remarks to the press made at the time of the announcement.
You state in your email that the new regional library system, once it is fully implemented, will mean “a better resourced and effective library model for all residents.” You preface that by stating, “There will be reinvestments into these [remaining] 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 per week.”
The first and most obvious point is that the money to be reinvested is insufficient to do all that is promised. The inadequacy of this proposal ($652,000) becomes abundantly clear when the money is divided across the 41 libraries. At $15,902 per library, the money is barely enough to add a part-time staff person in each of the libraries (which will now be expected to serve a larger catchment area), let alone invest in capital improvements or additional library materials.
The second observation is that whatever funds remain once the 41 remaining libraries have received their share, the amount will be insufficient to enhance ebook and books-by-mail services in any meaningful way. As library workers, we are very aware that these services are expensive to deliver and the cost per transaction high. Furthermore, these “enhancements” will in no measure compensate for the physical library and the face-to-face service that is being lost in 54 communities.
A CBC report of April 27th quoted you as saying that the targeted libraries have low usage levels. It stands to reason that small libraries in small communities will have low usage when compared to those in larger centres (particularly if lending statistics are the only assessment measure applied). But low usage (if indeed we can agree on a definition of “low”) does not necessarily mean low value. Stories abound of highly successful people (artists, business people, educators, health professionals, politicians) having been introduced to the world of books, reading and knowledge through the services of a bookmobile that visited their isolated community once a month, or of a small community library that, under-resourced as it was, provided a window on the world for a young person from a home with no books. That is to say, the introduction to the world of learning – and a stepladder to success – was made possible because the service came to the child and not the other way around. Even a small inadequately-resourced library will have more impact than one that is just slightly better stocked but miles away. People who do not read will not travel 30 minutes to get to a library, but a child of parents who do not read is likely to visit the local library in the ordinary course of living in a small community, and will be exposed to riches previously unknown to them.
The CBC also reports you as saying that, “It was certainly unknown to me at the time [that you criticized the previous government for wanting to close libraries] that the public libraries board themselves were advocating for government to either increase investment or to close some of these libraries that had very limited hours of service.” I suspect the Board was hoping for more money, or at least that all of the money saved through closures would be reinvested in the system. As it is, and as costs are rising, one million dollars are being skimmed off the top.
We understand that these are difficult economic times for Newfoundland and Labrador. But while this is the reality throughout the region, other jurisdictions have recognized the value of public libraries (to intellectual, mental and spiritual health) by investing in them. The new Halifax Public Library has more than proved the wisdom of the vision that built it. And the Government of New Brunswick has recently announced an additional $900,000 annually to open select public libraries on Sundays for the first time ever in that province. We submit that closing public libraries is not a “solution” that will bring long-term prosperity to the province, or even a fighting chance for individual citizens, and we implore the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reconsider its decision.
Suzanne van den Hoogen
APLA President 2016-17
If you agree that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador should reconsider the closure of over half of the province’s public libraries, please like and share our Save NL Public Libraries facebook page, download our “Save NL Public Libraries” Facebook Cover Photo & Profile Pic, or complete our Take Action to save our Public Libraries! form.
At the recent Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA) Annual Conference in Halifax, librarians and library workers took the opportunity to decry the announcement by the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador that it will close 54 of the province’s 95 public libraries over the next two years.
APLA President, Suzanne van den Hoogen, had this to say about the pending closures: “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. There is no question that the human costs of these closures (to the 64 staff who will lose their jobs and the library patrons who will lose their services) will by far eclipse the projected million dollars in savings. We urge the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reconsider. ”
APLA noted, that news of the planned closures has generated passionate reactions from individuals and organizations alike. NL author, Lisa Moore, has been particularly vocal on the issue, declaring in a May 17 article published by The Walrus that the closing of the libraries is nothing short of “an attack on writers, publishers, students – and culture.”
For his part, author Paul Butler (who lives in Corner Brook) told Morning Show host Bernice Hillier in a CBC interview broadcast on May 25 that, “It is almost impossible to imagine how you could do more damage while achieving less savings than closing 54 public libraries.”
On May 31, APLA hosted a “Save NL Public Libraries” rally and LOVE-IN during the conference and vowed to keep up the pressure. Library supporters inflated 54 balloons (one for each of the public library branches slated for closure) and also filled out postcards which will be mailed to Education Minister, Dale Kirby. A resolution was passed at the APLA Ordinary General Meeting of June 1 which commits the association to further advocacy efforts, in partnership with other interested groups, to stop the closures and to reverse the decision on the province’s book tax.
APLA also provided funding for NLLA President, Krista Godfrey, to attend the rally. NLLA appreciates the support of this regional library association.
The Canadian Health Libraries Association joins the list of associations who have written to the NL government in support of the public libraries. They are particularly concerned with the impact of the closures on health literacy:
In addition to the effects these closures will have on general literacy and community services, closing 54 libraries will also have a negative impact on the health literacy of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), particularly in rural communities, since public libraries are important providers of consumer health information both in print and online.