Small group protests library cuts

By Geoff Lee

April 13, 2017 2:07 PM

WORD Out-of-towner, and Source columnist, Jill McKenzie helps Ace Neustead, who she was babysitting, read a book while her son, Owen Nugent, left, digs into his book during a public reading protest of budget cuts to Saskatchewan's libraries. The event took place at noon on April 7 outside the Lloydminster constituency office of MLA ,Colleen Young. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

Sometimes a book title will speak volumes, like the one Ron Gillies brought to a reading protest over cuts in operating grants to regional libraries totalling $3.5 million in the Saskatchewan budget.
Gillies, the head librarian in Lloydminster, joined about 20 people outside the office of Lloydminster MLA Colleen Young last Friday, to send a silent book reading message that libraries matter.
Gillies read, “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts,” that sums up the province-wide campaign to save the One Card, One Library loan system.
“That’s what we’re here to do today, along with a group of like-minded library supporters, trying to save the one province one library service in Saskatchewan that is a model of its kind,” said Gillies.
Residents in the Lakeland library region serving the Lloydminster Pubic Library are denied access to nearly 3.5 million loan items since the service was suspended on April 10.
Each region got a 58 per cent cut to their operating grant —a loss of $500,000 that funded inter-libary loan deliveries.
The provincial buget eliminated all funding grants to public libaries in Regina and Saskatoon. 
“We think the government, although in tougher financial times, made a real mistake trying to eliminate this as one of their budget targets two weeks ago,” said Gillies.
He was pleased by the mix of adults, children and library users at the protest, one of 40 to 50 that took place at MLA offices throughout the province.
“It’s good to see people here just to make a statement that libraries matter to them personally,” said Gillies.
“They’re trying to bring to the attention of Colleen Young, our MLA who is part of the Saskatchewan caucus, that they really need to rethink this one.”
Young was not in Lloydminster for the 15-minute reading protest, but said during a phone interview that afternoon, that cutting the deficit is a priority for her party.
“I know that they (constituents) are concerned and we quite understand it, but as we all know, we are trying to get a handle on the deficit of the province, rather than kicking the can down the road and recurring more,” said Young
“I know it’s important; we do value libraries—we needed to share the burden to every area, and it’s unfortunate, but we are working on our deficit.”
The Lakeland region has redone their budget with $1.2 million in revenue from municipal levies and $300,000 in operation grants after the cuts.
There are about 30 libraries in the region.
Gillies said the immediate budget hit to the Lloydminster Public Library is about $25,000 with the loss of the One Card, One Libary loan system, affecting everyone in the province.
Young noted Education Minister Don Minister who has stated the One Card, One Library system must be maintained, has meetings planned this week to seek a solution.
“The minister is willing to sit down with those services and see if there’s something that we can do a little different in order to keep those services going,” said Young.
“We know it is a value source for people, but as I said, we are trying to find ways to find some efficiencies and some savings,” said Young.
Wayne Schlapkohl from North Battleford was in Lloydminster for business and took part in the noon reading rallying in support of his wife who used to deliver books to small rural libraries that depended on inter-library loans programs.
“So I know just how crucial it is to those small towns that that program keeps going,” he said.
“They had a van that would literally fill up five days a week.”
Schlapkohl recalled if anything, those people were always saying there was more books than they could carry.
“I think I worried about strain injuries because there was so much lifting,” he said.
Gillies said without the resources to make it happen, inter library loans are not likely to happen despite Morgan’s decrees that it must happen.
“No matter how you cut it, someone’s got to pay the price of moving that stuff,” he said.
“Without the money. we can’t move it; you can’t just click your fingers and say make it happen without the resources.”
Jill McKenzie who brought her young son and a boy she was babysitting to the reading protest said without libraries, there’s going to be a lot less inclusion.
McKenzie used to tutor literacy and English as a second language.
“We use the library; we’ve used Marsden and Paradise Hill and we come into Lloydminster to the library and we use the kid’s programming,” she said.
“I think they are not realizing how important it is to our small towns.”
Lorna Nuspl, a Lloydminster resident was reading “Dangerous Ladies Affair” and described herself as an avid library user.
“I have been forever since I was a teenager and I want the library to continue to function and support all the people of Lloydminster and the surrounding area,” she said.
Nuspl said she’s at the Lloydminster library once or twice a week.
“My children are avid readers because they started out with the children’s program in Lloydminster and I just want to continue it for my grandchildren,” she added.
Gillies said the immediate budget hit to the Lloydminster Public Library is about $25,000.

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