Library manager 'debunking' province's budget cut defence

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Library volunteer calls minister's request to keep book transfer program — with less money — hypocritical

Library volunteer calls minister's request to keep book transfer program — with less money — hypocritical

The province is receiving pushback after cutting budgets for libraries across the province.

Provincial funding for Saskatoon and Regina libraries were completely cut in the budget, and that's a $1.3-million reduction. Regional libraries had their funding cut by $3.5-million.

There will be read-in events across the province to show support for local libraries. Drop Everything and Read will take place at noon on April 7. For the events, members of the public are encouraged to go their MLA's office and read for 15 minutes to demonstrate support for the province's libraries.

During the March 30 question period, Education Minister Don Morgan outlined the government's reasons behind cutting library budgets. A library branch manager is speaking out to "debunk" some of the minister's arguments for cutting library budgets.

Co-location option

Morgan said more than 90 rural communities in Saskatchewan that have two libraries — one at the community centre and one at the school.

"There are close to 300 rural public library branches in Saskatchewan," said James Richards, the regional branch manager of Weyburn's Southeast Regional Library, in an e-mail.

"What of the other 200 plus communities that are not lucky enough to have both a public and a school library?"

Morgan suggested the province look at co-location as an option for these areas where there is both a municipal library and a school library. But Richards suggests that co-locating libraries will actually cost more money than it saves.

"Additional administration, supervision, staff training, integration of the school and public collections and integrated policy work are just some of the ongoing time and finance consuming hurdles to overcome during an integration project," said Richards.

Richards also adds that there would be inherent complications with having a public library exist at a school.

"As a parent, I would feel deeply uneasy about members of the public entering my child's school on their way to the co-located library," said Richards.

"I would assume principals would also share this apprehension that 'just anyone' could be coming and going from school grounds, strolling the hallways, and accessing the washrooms without their knowledge."

He also said certain materials you would expect to find in a public library would not be suitable for a school library.

Online resources

Morgan said the number of items checked out of all libraries has dropped by 1.6 million items since 2007, and the number of library cards has dropped by 175,000.

"Physical item checkouts have dropped significantly over the past 10 years. However, e-resources like e-books and Hoopla are circulating quite heavily," said Richards.

Richards said that checkout statistics of physical items are not all that counts when evaluating a library. He said patrons make use of free Wi-Fi, and programming attendance has increased.

Morgan also said that the province wants to work with libraries to adjust how they can deliver services within the new funding levels.

"With respect, the provincial government's actions have made it patently clear it has no interest in working with public libraries," said Richards.

"If it did, the government would have consulted with public library directors before slashing 58% of their budget in order to give them time to plan for the cuts."