Nfld. & Labrador

Greenspond veteran feels disrespected as war memorial library set to close

People in Greenspond say they were "blindsided" by the provincial government's decision to shut down their library that's dedicated in the memory of five local soldiers that died in World War II.
Greenspond Memorial Library is one of 54 libraries slated to close in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

People in Greenspond say they were "blindsided" by the provincial government's decision to shut down their library that's dedicated in the memory of five local soldiers that died in World War II.

"To do this to a war memorial in the same year that they're honouring Beaumont Hamel and the Newfoundland soldiers that died there, it's just unbelievable," said Norman Woodland, a veteran of the Canadian Military who served as a United Nations Peacekeeper in Cyprus. 

"My mother worked here for a number of years ... probably eight or ten years," said Woodland. "She was a war bride. My father served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War, and my great uncle was in the First World War."

Norman Woodland, a veteran of the Canadian Military who served as a United Nations Peacekeeper in Cyprus. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Woodland was one of dozens who rallied together in support of keeping the library open.

The Greenspond Memorial Library is one of 54 libraries the province will close in the next two years, cutting 64 jobs - mainly in rural communities.
 
The libraries are being closed to deal with a $1-million cut to the annual budget.

Woodland believes the library in Greenspond deserves special consideration and considers shutting the library down a sign of disrespect. 

"We were certainly blindsided by this decision by the government," said Woodland. "Look at it as a war memorial. That's what it was built for in the first place."

Unexpected closure

Herb Burry is a retired principal who lives in Greenspond. He said the community was caught completely off guard by the decision to shut down its library. 

"I think this came really as a bombshell," said Burry.

"I don't think anybody really expected it. We may have had concerns because we knew that nothing was sacred anymore because the government, in their great wisdom, decided that there were things that had to be sacrificed in the name of saving dollars."

The Greenspond Memorial Library was built 67 years ago to honour soldiers killed in World War II.

"Really the library started as a memorial to the men who lost their lives in the second world war, but it's also a memory to all of the veterans from this community," said Burry. 

Herb Burry is a retired principal who lives in Greenspond. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Burry believes it's the only war memorial library in the province. 

"There are some things in this country that men and woman have fought for — that we believe in —  and we've earned the right to retain," said Burry. 

"These men and women who went overseas gave their lives so that we could have the good life that we could have. This is not about dollars and cents anymore. It's about being sensitive to sacred things."

Burry believes the library should have been considered "unique" and kept open.

Family Impact

Denise Hayes grew up in Greenspond and recently moved back home to find a town that's shrinking with continued cuts from government. 

She worries that if the province shuts down the library, there will be nothing left to attract young families to Greenspond and will put kids at a disadvantage. 

"This library, as important as it is as a memorial, is also a hub of the community," said Hayes. 

"We don't have anything else in this community. This is what there is. When you take this away from small communities — you're creating a divide between children in rural areas and children in urban areas. There are other programs in urban areas. There is nothing else here."

"The money the government is saving with these cuts is so insignificant."

Greenspond resident Denise Hayes. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Hayes believes the cuts are reversible and hopes the government recognizes the public support for the memorial library. 

"These small towns, this small town, cannot afford to lose these libraries," said Hayes.

"Because as important as it is to put these books out there, there's so many other community needs that are met here. We have seniors' programs, there are children's programs. And to strip that away, to strip away the heart of the community — for pennies?"

Hayes said there's still time for the province to reverse their decision and put funding back into the provincial library system. 

"You know what? It's not too late. It can happen," she said.

"We can start seeing a government with a heart here. We can start seeing a government that is more concerned with people, that's more concerned with people."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Ensing

CBC News

Chris Ensing is the host of CBC Windsor at 6.

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