Wednesday, 05 April 2017 15:10

Library ‘numbers’ more important than actual words

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Education Don Morgan and seemingly, the urban-based media, are wrong: libraries aren’t irrelevant.

It isn’t known at the time of writing how many people showed up at schedule “Read-Ins” at Swift Current, Gull Lake Maple Creek and other communities across the province, but perhaps government officials better take note of what’s happening outside of their budget spreadsheet.
Residents were willing to give the benefit of the doubt to some cuts (i.e STC), raising of the sales tax which is never easy for your regular working families or fixed income seniors, but there is something different to cutting the funding to a library.
There doesn’t seem to be any protests regarding the fuel tax for farmers or the fact there’s an amalgamation of health boards, yet here we are April 7, and there are the planned province-wide read-ins at constituency offices across Saskatchewan.
So why do people care about what Morgan calls these buildings of ‘bricks and mortar’ which should just move into schools if books are so desired. After all, if you want to read or learn something, just go on the Internet. For many people, where do they access the Internet?
Oh, right, the library.
It’s all about anecdotal evidence and heresy and dare we say the habits of the politicians in suits who seem out of touch with the regular habits and day-to-day dealings with many families and seniors.
The government keeps talking about these budget numbers, how money has to be saved and how the number of people using the library has decreased. If library usage has decreased, where are the government’s numbers to prove it. There hasn’t been a lot of actual evidence provided. If anything it’s the library administrators who have provided the numbers and they say library usage is up. (See front page story and letters to the editor on Page A12).
Technology isn’t always where it’s at. If ebook readers such as Kindles and Kobos were the permanent replacement to books then why do book stores still exist? Why do newspaper stands still exist?
Why do people go to libraries?
Libraries and their staff members are in touch with regular people, unlike apparently those sitting in the legislature. They know what people like and need and are quite innovative about finding it. Check out the Community Calendar section of this newspaper and check out the Swift Current Library’s seniors, children’s and adult classes. They’re free to patrons who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to learn about computer programs, dancing, socializing with others who like whist or knitting or youth who want to learn how to write short stories or gasp ... read more. 
In a Postmedia report April 3, Morgan was quoted as while acknowledging the cuts were significant he was surprised there were layoffs without checking with the municipalities first or seeking other options.
Really? In a budget where most things were given significant budget cuts everyone else will be holding on to their budget money and subsequently their jobs.
Why save something when the need to save yourself is more important?
There’s something abhorrent about cutting funding to long-time, proven and yes, innovative institutions which have embraced technology, in fact holding free courses to teach it, and which promotes literacy.
Heartless cuts? Arguably, it is if the reports are true of high-ranking library officials finding out about the cuts an hour before the budget was presented in the legislature.
Even if you feel no emotion and are about spreadsheets and policies, it’s at least arguable, the cuts are shortsighted. They are also not well planned or well thought out in regards to the social ramifications.
Saskatchewan is suffering from deficits and debt like the rest of the country, but one would have thought if you were going to make cuts to libraries, it would have been more of a gradual process instead of a “here, you deal with it” approach in dumping the burden on the beleaguered . There has been no time to adjust with already-set budgets and no time to make for the people who know what is critical to functioning programs to make decisions.
Now, the ‘One Province, One Card’ program which places holds on books from libraries across the province is now gone.
A report indicated a “measly” 693,000 holds were done in 2016. It’s bad enough this is done to the urban libraries, but in the rural areas, the cuts will hack away at the very fibre of communities. Much like beloved rinks and needed hospitals, the library is a highly functioning symbol of a community — something which is under attack.
If they have ideas to get rid of libraries, what will take their place? Residents will love to read about the well thought-out, innovative ideas the government has in mind.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor