Saskatchewan library officials, bookworms rejoice over funding reinstatement
Loan program between libraries in the province will start up again
Library lovers across Saskatchewan are celebrating after the provincial government announced it would reverse cuts to libraries and restore $4.8 million in funding.
On Monday, Education Minister Don Morgan admitted the government had made a mistake with the cut.
"We've heard from people pretty clearly that they value the library in its present form. It's important for them not just to have the electronic capability, but they also want to have the physical space to go to," he said.
Regina Public Library board chair Sean Quinlan said he is ecstatic over the news.
"We're able to put everything back together and restore the Saskatchewan library system to being the best in Canada," he said.
Carol Cooley, CEO of the Saskatoon Public Library, spoke with Julianne Hazlewood of CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, saying the organization is pleased the provincial government has decided to reinstate the funding, particularly in rural Saskatchewan.
"They heard loud and clear from residents of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan that they value their libraries and they value the holds service," she said. "I applaud them for that — for reversing those cuts — and for being willing to look at ways to find efficiencies to keep libraries running."
Changes could come to the province's library-to-library loan program, which has been restored for the time being. Cooley said that, as is, the service is costly for some libraries, including in Saskatoon.
Cooley reminds people that the reprieve will only last to the end of the provincial government's 2017-18 fiscal year, so more changes could come after that. In the meantime, she said the library will be looking to save money through planning.
"What we're trying to do is look at a sustainable way to serve, certainly the population of Saskatoon and provide some benefit to residents elsewhere in the province, but we need to see that be sustainable and a little more cost efficient," she said.
Still pinching pennies
The director of the Chinook Regional Library was planning drastic measures before the funding was restored.
"We really just didn't have money to last longer than probably until the end of June," said Jean McKendry. "I was preparing the layoff letters because we were all going to go.
"We're glad that we don't have to layoff 100 employees."
The library serves more than 45,000 people in southwest Saskatchewan.
McKendry said they are currently working to replace all of their computers, which she said are worn out. Repairs to their "crumbling headquarters building in Swift Current" are also a must.
For now, she is unsure how the region-to-region book delivery will work without STC busing.
Support goes viral
For the creator of the Save Saskatchewan Libraries Facebook group, which garnered the support of more than 8,000 people in the province, the government's announcement is a victory.
'I think that the provincial government didn't realize that they were waking up a sleeping giant.' - Christine Freethy
"It was so gratifying to see that the will of the people was listened to," said Christine Freethy.
As a mother, and a member of the local library board in North Battleford, Freethy started the page hoping that a few of her colleagues on the board would join.
By the second day, 1,500 from all over the province had joined.
"I think that the provincial government didn't realize that they were waking up a sleeping giant," she said.
While they are now celebrating a victory, Freethy said the campaign members will continue to fight until the funding is secured past the current fiscal year.
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