A high school librarian in Nova Scotia is denouncing job cuts that even the head of the school board calls a "drastic step backwards."
The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board runs schools in northern and central Nova Scotia. It's grappling with a $6.5-million shortfall this year, along with dropping enrolment.
Librarian Monica Nielsen was bracing for bad news when the board met last week to discuss a cut in funding from the province. She expected library hours would be scaled back and staff would cover more schools.
So she was shocked to learn that all 41 school librarians are losing their jobs.
"That was just impossible to believe," Nielsen told CBC News on Monday.
Nielsen works at Northumberland Regional High outside Westville, a small town near New Glasgow. About 960 students are enrolled at the Grade 9-12 school.
'Drastic step backwards'
Nielsen said the cuts will have an impact on all students, and not just those who need help from a librarian picking out the right book.
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"This is going to affect all students in different ways. The student that needs that place to go at lunch time or break or during their free period, and they know the library is a safe place to be at, that's going to be gone for them," she said.
School board chair Trudy Thompson said the $6.5-million shortfall left the board with few choices.
She said the board chopped administration by 20 per cent last year and plans more restructuring this year, but more cuts were necessary.
"It is a drastic step backwards," Thompson said. "The education system, with these latest rounds of cuts, is moving 15 or 20 years backwards. But if you don't have the resources, we had nowhere else to go."
In total, the Chignecto school board is cutting 130 full-time equivalent positions.
Librarian contemplates moving
Teachers or volunteers will now have to run the libraries. When they're not around, the libraries will stay closed.
Nielsen said librarians don't just sign out books.
"I can't see how teachers, with everything they have on their plate now, how they can be expected to add a whole other job to what they're doing," she said.
Nielsen said her family may just move away. She has two children. Her husband works for the provincial government.
"We chose to live in rural Nova Scotia. This is the life that we wanted for our family," she said.
"But if all of the library positions are gone, I will have no job. It won't be a matter of sitting at home waiting for someone to retire and apply for that job. There will be no job. So for us as a family, we will very likely have to leave the province.
"And I don't know if I even want to keep my kids in a Nova Scotia education system if this is what it's going to look like."