Perth South residents can still access Stratford Public Library’s resources – just with a $120 non-resident card

Perth South residents can still access the Stratford Public Library (SPL)’s resources with their municipality picking up the tab.

On May 14, following the St. Marys Public Library ending service with the Township of Perth South, the SPL board voted to offer Perth South residents a non-resident library card for the remainder of 2024.

The non-resident card costs $120, with the township footing the bill so residents will not be out of pocket.

The cards allow non-residents to access resources owned by the SPL, but not the collections owned by the Perth County Information Network (PCIN)’s partners.

“Residents have been grateful to regain some access to library services and have voiced to us that they are hopeful Perth South will properly invest in full, local-library access for 2025,” Krista Robinson, CEO of SPL, said in an emailed statement. “The loss of downloadLibrary, our main ebook and audiobook collection, as well as access to library materials … outside of our library has been very disappointing for many Perth South residents.”

During its 2024 municipal budget deliberations, Perth South council cut the budget for allocating library services nearly in half, going from a budget of $126,052 in 2023 to $65,000 in 2024, initiating a review of their library services, which were provided by SPL, St. Marys Public Library and Huron County Library.

According to a release posted on the municipality’s Facebook page, St. Marys had a “significant difference in cost” compared to SPL and the Huron County Library. St. Marys Public Library was priced at $297.45 per user, whereas both Stratford and Huron County were priced at a little over $225, $227.40 and $225.32 respectively.

The municipality asked the St. Marys board to send a revised budget for consideration, but the board declined and ended service for Perth South residents, citing the fact that St. Marys residents already subsidized library services for their neighbours in Perth South.

In light of that decision, Stratford declined to renew its contract unless a contract with St. Marys was also renewed.

“Perth South residents have been able to access library services in Kirkton, St. Marys and Stratford for more than fifteen years,” Jim Aitcheson, mayor of Perth South, said in that same release. “Council felt a review was required based on St. Marys’ submission for 2024. We apologize for the disruption this review has caused.”

“We are encouraging Perth South residents to speak to their Perth South council about how an investment in full library service is important to them and their community,” Robinson said. “We are hopeful we can reach an agreement to be able to offer full library service to Perth South residents in 2025.”

Perth South residents can still use both libraries’ space, internet and browse resources inside the buildings free of charge.

Aitcheson is asking residents to be patient as the municipality works through the transition.

Connor Luczka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Stratford Times