On Friday, April 7, almost 6,000 Saskatchewan residents came out to support their public library system and to protest agains the draconian cuts to provincial funding recently announced by the Sask Party government. From La Ronge to Maple Creek, Pierceland to Estevan, library users celebrated their library service and told their stories at DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) events around the province. Many of the read-ins took place in front of MLA offices, others in rural branch libraries.
This amazing demonstration of support is a clear indication that the government’s plans for our libraries are not what Saskatchewan people want, no matter how they vote. This is a nonpartisan issue – residents, no matter what their politics, need and want access to information.
These cuts came with no warning, and with no consultation with the library systems themselves. In response to public outcry, the government members, including the Premier and the Minister of Education are giving us ‘alternative facts’.
Combine school and public libraries, they say. WRONG – this is a challenge that hardly ever can be made to work, and doesn’t save money anyway.
Library systems are sitting on huge reserves, they say. WRONG – what libraries have are Tangible Capital Assets in the form of buildings, vehicles and computer equipment, and only modest amounts of actual cash on hand, and even those are earmarked for upgrades to and replacement of capital items.
Library usage is in decline, they say. WRONG – our libraries are busier than ever, showing substantial increases in internet usage, programme attendance and accessing of e-resources.
The interlibrary loan system can be maintained, despite the cuts, they say. WRONG – drastic cuts would have to be made elsewhere, thus severely damaging the network and infrastructure that supports the interlibrary loan system.
We have too many libraries, they say. WRONG – comparing us to Alberta or Manitoba, where the populations are more centralized and less dispersed, is nonsense. And, if you want to compare capita figures, then Saskatchewan has far too many MLAs!
We need to continue to fight to protect this invaluable community services, which enriches life for everyone.
Catherine Macaulay – Val Marie