St. Mary’s council approves funding for new Sherbrooke library hours

·2 min read

ST. MARY’S – Despite the Sherbrooke Library’s indefinite closure due to a staff shortage, council for the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s has approved funding to add to the branch’s weekly operating schedule over the next year.

The move — approved at the committee of the whole meeting last week (May 2), but discussed earlier at the annual general meeting in April — would introduce five new hours on Tuesday (9-2 p.m.) and add two more on Saturday (12:30-2:30 p.m.), bringing the number of hours open to the public to 25, from 18 (Wednesday-Friday, 12:30-5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.).

But, Chief Administrative Officer Marissa Jordan pointed out at the meeting, the additional hours are only possible “pending new staff” at the Sherbrooke branch.

“It’s not open now, right?” District 4 Councillor Beulah Malloy asked about the location, which has been closed for prolonged periods over the past year due to problems with finding and keeping qualified librarians.

“No, because there is a shortage of staff at the current moment,” Jordan replied, adding: “So, council agreed in the budget to an additional seven hours per week for this fiscal (2023-24), pending new [library] staff.”

Cost details were not immediately available, but Eastern Counties Regional Library (ECRL) — which administers Sherbrooke operations along with nine other branches in eastern mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton — has paid at least $20 an hour for a full-time librarian.

Last week, ECRL CEO Laura Emery confirmed that due to ongoing staff shortages, Sherbrooke’s library will remain closed indefinitely. “We apologize to users for the inconvenience,” she said on April 28 following the second consecutive day of closure. “[We] hope to reopen as soon as we can.”

In December, ECRL and the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s agreed to abide by a provincially mandated plan to work out their longstanding differences over funding and hours of operation for the Sherbrooke Library. The municipality currently pays ECRL under a cost-service agreement of between $18,000 and $27,000 a year, depending on the number of hours the library remains operational and open to the public.”

In the meeting last week, Malloy asked, “So what happens to the money that we’ve paid, but not getting any service?”

Jordan responded: “We would have to go in camera for contract negotiations if you would like to discuss anything outside of just [the new] hours.”

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal