Manitoba

Westwood community rallies to save library after proposed budget cuts

On Saturday, a group of people gathered for a rally to urge the City of Winnipeg to reconsider how it might meet tight spending goals over the next four years.

‘It’s about the people and that sense of community,’ says resident Jennifer Hallick

Asher Steppler and Uli Hallick Murray hold signs at a rally to save the Westwood Library on Saturday. (Jennifer Hallick/Submitted)

Six-year-old Uli Hallick Murray will do anything to save his favourite library — even donate his weekly allowance.

Uli's mom, Jennifer Hallick, said her son loves spending time at the Westwood Library, so he wanted to take action when he heard it was at risk of closing as part of city hall's efforts to cut public spending.

"We were at the library the other day and getting out of the car, and I noticed he was gathering up his allowance money out of the cupholder of his car seat. And I was like, 'What are you doing with that, buddy?'" said Hallick.

"He said, 'I'm going to take it in and give it to them and tell them that they can have it, so that if they have to demolish the library they can use this towards building a new one.'"

Uli came up with $2.50 — but Hallick said her son has vowed to keep saving until he comes up with enough money to buy his community a new library.

And he isn't the only Westwood resident upset the neighbourhood's library might close. On Saturday, a group of people gathered for a rally to urge the City of Winnipeg to reconsider how it might meet tight spending goals over the next four years. Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) also made an appearance at the rally, Hallick said.

Under expenditure targets the city released last month, community services like libraries would be held to a 0.5 per cent increase in spending per year — an increase that would not meet the current rate of inflation.

The city's community services department said earlier this month it would have to make drastic cuts, including closing the Westwood, West Kildonan and Fort Garry libraries, to meet the target.

Coun. Kevin Klein made an appearance at Saturday's rally to save the Westwood library. (Jennifer Hallick/Submitted)

Hallick said those who came to the rally showed how important the library is to so many different people. For some, it's a place to access books, movies and computers for free. For her, it's a place to find home-schooling materials for her son. For Uli, it's the place that fostered his love of reading. 

"There was just a lot of disbelief," she said. "They can't understand why the city would be considering closing the Westwood Library, because it is such a vibrant, active library. It's always busy. The programming is always full."

That's why Hallick decided to start a petition to keep the library open. As of Sunday afternoon, the online version had 3,760 signatures. Hallick said her husband, Charles Murray, also created a physical version that people have been using to collect signatures within the community.

And on Wednesday, she and Murray are bringing those signatures with them when they speak at a city council meeting.

"We're gathering stories from any person that's willing to share about why the library is important to them and what the loss of the library would mean to them," she said. 

"And that's kind of what I hope that we can really, really hammer into them: at the end of day, it's not the numbers, it's not just about the money. It's about the people and that sense of community, and that should be our main focus: keeping those hubs of connection."

With files from Caitlyn Gowriluk, Bartley Kives and Sean Kavanagh

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