Education minister defends library cuts, cites declining use

1 / 2

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 opposition NDP is hammering Saskatchewan Education Minister Don Morgan for suggesting the province has too many libraries.

During Thursday's question period Morgan again defended the multimillion-dollar cuts to libraries in the provincial budget by saying that usage has gone down significantly in the last decade. 

"Items checked out of the libraries since '07 has dropped by 1.6 million. Number of library cards down by 175,000," Morgan said in question period. 

Earlier this week, he suggested that too many small towns in Saskatchewan have more than one facility for book-borrowers.

Provincial funding for Saskatoon and Regina's libraries were completely axed in last week's budget: a $1.3-million reduction.

Regional libraries had their funding cut by $3.5 million. Library officials said it represented a 58 per cent cut to the regional library system, adding that many services, including inter-branch lending, e-books, and literacy programs, are now on the chopping block.

"The Sask. Party doesn't seem to understand that the library is more than just books,"  NDP MLA Carla Beck said in question period Thursday. 

"While may be fewer people checking out books, library usage is way up," she said.

Morgan said earlier this week that too many rural Saskatchewan communities with small populations still have two libraries — one at the community centre and one at the school.

He said the cuts reflect the new reality for libraries in the 21st century, where fewer people are taking out physical books and more people are accessing services online.

"The future of libraries is leaning more towards electronic media. I'm not saying you shouldn't have bricks and mortar, but there certainly is a shift," Morgan said earlier this week.

The provincial budget saw millions in cuts across the board as the government grapples with a deficit and low commodity prices.