The Newfoundland and Labrador government's decision to save money by laying off five of the 14 professional librarians in the provincial library system was a target of criticism at a public meeting in Corner Brook on Monday night.
Crystal Rose, a former president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association, told a budget forum organized by the NDP that the cuts to the library system defy logic, as other staff will be left to run libraries without actual librarians on site.
"We are just baffled at the lack of planning and consultation that went into the decision-making for the budget cuts, and I think the public library system is a perfect example of the short-sightedness and the complete lack of understanding that went into the layoffs," Rose told the meeting, which was organized by New Democrats George Murphy and Christopher Mitchelmore.
"The analogy I would use would be if you took a hospital and [then] you laid off all the doctors, and then you said to the remaining staff, 'We're just going to divide that work up amongst you guys. Oh, we're going to fire some of you as well, and, oh, the public is not going to be affected,'" Rose said.
The March 26 budget eliminated $1.2 million in funding for public libraries, or about 10 per cent of the overall budget.
The Library Association is denouncing the cut, which it says will mean that nine librarians will be left to run 96 libraries across the province.
Education Minister Clyde Jackman said last week that the cuts are unfortunate, but government opted to lay off staff rather than close libraries.
Rose said the cuts will affect major centres, and not just small communities.
"In Corner Brook, with our beautiful new library building, where we have had a librarian for 35 years, we now have no librarian," she said.
"What went into that? What consultation and long term planning went into a decision like that — that you're leaving the City of Corner Brook without a librarian?"
'What is here for us?'
Meanwhile, a community development worker on the west coast told the forum that the budget is forcing her to assess whether she should stay in the province.
Heather Davis, who has a master's degree and 13 years of experience, said she has worked with several organizations, including the area's economic development board, which is now closing.
"I really feel like the doors are slamming shut behind," said Davis, whose career has also included teaching at the College of the North Atlantic.
"For the first time since I've moved back here, from after doing the Master's, I've really looked at my partner and said, 'What is here for us?'"
The NDP has been holding public meetings around the province to collect opinion on the provincial budget, which has included the elimination of about 1,200 positions, most through direct layoffs. The remainder include vacant posts that are being closed permanently as well as an early retirement incentive that has been offered to public servants.