Funding restored

By Geoff Lee

April 27, 2017 12:00 AM

THE BOOK IS OPEN Ron Gilles, head librarian of the Lloydminster Public Libary, pictured at a read-in protest over budget cuts to Saskatchewan libraries outside the Lloydminster Consituency Office of MLA Colleen Young on April 7 is relieved to learn the government has listened to the public and will fully restore funding. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

Relief.
That’s how Ron Gillies, head librarian of the Lloydminster Public Library felt after learning funding for Saskatchewan’s public libraries will be fully restored to 2016-17 levels.
The province admitted it was a mistake to cut the entire $1.3 million operating grant to libraries in Regina and Saskatoon and $3.5 million in grants to regional libraries in its March budget.
The cuts reduced the budget of the Lakeland Region that the Lloydminster library is part of by $500,000.
“There were many necessary, difficult decisions taken in this budget, however the reductions in library funding without giving libraries the tools to meet the new challenge was a mistake,” said Education Minister Don Morgan in an April 24 announcement.
“I give full credit to minster Don Morgan for saying that they made a mistake and were big enough to admit it and to undo it and move forward,” said Gillies.
He said that’s how government should operate.
“They came up with a proposal—it didn’t fly in the eyes of the community and they were perceptive enough to see the value of libraries and undid the change,” he said.
Morgan also announced the government will conduct a “consultative review” with Saskatchewan libraries and municipalities with an eye to “what is financially responsible” to operate libraries.
The funding reversal will save the provincial inter-library loan program that was suspended when the $4.8 million in total cuts were made.
Gillies anticipates library to library lending in the province and in Lloydminster will be coming back to normal starting next Monday. When or how the provincial library system will be fully reset to pre-budget cut levels is less clear.
“I don’t know when the implementation is,” he said, just hours after Morgan’s announcement.
“I suspect it means that rather stuff being cut, it’s as if the cuts, in essence, didn’t occur, but I suspect there are a number of people at various regions frantically trying to figure out what they have to do to undo things, rescind layoffs.”
Gillies noted that were a variety of things that were already in the process of being shutdown because deadlines were coming.
The full restoration of funding follows a province-wide read-in protest on May 7 outside the offices of Saskatchewan Party MLAs including the Lloydminster constituent office of Colleen Young.
Helping the cause was the circulation of a province-wide petition against the cuts.
“I think the politicians saw that libraries clearly were important,” Gilles who took part in the local silent reading protest.
He jokes that he’s not sure if he will mark the funding restoration by reading a murder mystery to release his anger or a kid’s picture book with blue skies.
Gillies noted his staff are happy because they don’t have to keep explaining to people why they can’t get at things or why they are not going to be able to get things for them.
“I think the public, as the word goes will be really quite happy and we’ll go from there,” he said.

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