Nfld. & Labrador

Union representing N.L. library workers slams 'very vague' report

The report is too vague about the future of public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador, but on the other hand, CUPE says it states an obvious reality.

The system is 'under a cloud of what's going to happen next,' says CUPE Local 2329 president

Dawn Lahey of CUPE Local 2329, which represents library workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, says the report does nothing to provide answers about the future of public libraries in the province. (CUPE)

The waiting is the hardest part — and it continues, despite a recently released report, much to the chagrin of the union representing library workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We've waited since last June ... we also have the whole system under a cloud of what's going to happen next," says Dawn Lahey, president of CUPE Local 2329.

"I think it's very cruel to expect library workers in this province, or workers anywhere, to live under that cloud for that extended period of time."

'Very vague'

Lahey is referring to the report by EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young, the consulting firm hired to compile a report on the province's public library system, after swift criticism last year to a plan by government to close 54 libraries.

"I find it wanting in a lot of ways. It's very vague in the recommendations. It doesn't specify what they want government to do," Lahey told CBC Radio's On the Go, noting it could be another year or more before the report is acted upon.

Public consultation about libraries had been heated, with participants storming out of one session in St. John's in early October. (Andrew Samson/CBC)

EY recommends "reassessing and adjusting the number and locations of public libraries," as well as establishing regional organizations to run the libraries and deliver services.

The report stated that a number of libraries are close together in communities with shrinking populations and that some are "significantly underperforming" when it comes to operating hours, collections and other areas of service. 

As for how many libraries the province needs or which should remain open, Lahey said she's still searching for that information. 

"We still don't know. They put all these charts and all this in the appendices and they've got all these facts and figures, but that's where it stops," she said.

Stating the obvious

On the other hand, Lahey said the report highlights something she's known for years, even decades. 

"It states a lot of the obvious — we're underfunded, we've known that," she said. 

As for what's next, Lahey said library workers had a lot of questions when this process started a year ago. Now, even with a report released, there are even more uncertainties.

Newfoundland and Labrador Education Minister Dale Kirby was not available to talk about the report on the province's public libraries. (CBC)

"I don't think this report gives us those answers," she said.

"It boggles my mind why this report is going to have any impact, or if it will have any impact, on library services in our province."

Representatives for Education Minister Dale Kirby have so far declined multiple requests from CBC to speak about the libraries report, saying he was unavailable last week and travelling this week.

With files from On the Go and Marilyn Boone