Saskatchewan Education Minister Don Morgan has no right to demand libraries continue the library-to-library loan program in the wake of funding cuts to provincial libraries, according to one rural library volunteer.
Libraries across the province announced Tuesday that the service, where anyone with a library card can request and return books to any library in Saskatchewan, will not continue given the new budget constraints.
"How does he think these books are going to move around? Fairy dust?" said Christine Freethy. "Who is going to pack them? Who's going to manage the computer system that does it all? You can't say we're going to have something you de-funded."
Freethy lives in Rabbit Lake, Sask., and along with her family, she uses the library-to-library loan system regularly.
She was dismayed by Morgan's comments earlier this week that libraries keep the loan system even while facing massive cuts.
"The funding to make it work was removed by this government. They cannot expect for it to continue. It's the definition of insanity," Freethy said.
Loan program important to rural communities
On Tuesday, Morgan said the provincial government had "a large investment" in the "One Province, One Library Card" system.
He urged regional libraries to restructure themselves in order to maintain the service, but he did not commit more money to keep the program going.
Freethy said that is hypocritical.
She said the program is especially important for rural Saskatchewan.
"It will greatly diminish the resources available to people. It's basically destroying a system that took years to build and is recognized all over as being the gold standard in library services," Freethy said.
On Wednesday, Morgan doubled down, saying libraries should find more effective ways to get books from one library to another and that they should keep the program.
"They ought to look at every option to keep it. And they ought to look at efficiencies and economies," he said.
The total $4.8-million cut to libraries included $1.3 million for the Saskatoon and Regina library systems.
STC shutdown would have affected library loans
Besides the $4.8-million cut to provincial libraries, the province also shuttered the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, which libraries from across the province used to ship books from one region to another.
But according to Cheryl Bauer-Hyde, the chairperson of Wapiti Regional Library, STC's pending closure was not the main reason the province's libraries were forced to stop lending each other books.
"The cutting of STC has an impact," said Bauer-Hyde. "But the larger impact was the budget."
Carol Cooley, the CEO of Saskatoon Public Library, agreed, saying that her library used STC to ship books to and from the city, but that it used a variety of other methods to ship from branch to branch.