Nfld. & Labrador

'Just devastated' by library closures, say rural residents

No more library books, programs, or free internet and computer access for people in 54 small communities in Newfoundland and Labrador - and some people in those towns say government is taking away a service they depend on.

People have harsh words for government after learning their local libraries closing due to budget cuts

Newfoundland and Labrador library board said they have been forced to adopt a regional library model, which will see more than half of the provincial branches close in the next two years. (Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

No more library books, programs, or free internet and computer access for people in 54 small communities in Newfoundland and Labrador has left some saying government is taking away a service they depend on. 

"We were just devastated by the news," Christine Dwyer told the Central Morning Show on Friday.

Dwyer has been on the Fogo Island library board for 39 years, and said libraries are the "cultural foundation of Newfoundland," even if many are open less than 20 hours a week. 

She said it will take people on Fogo and Change Islands hours to access the closest library left after the cuts. Closing it will save one small salary — about $15,000 a year.

Dwyer said people rely on the Fogo library for computer access and there's a social aspect as well, with more than 1,000 registered users out of a population of about 2,500. 

"They're just eradicating the rural Newfoundland," said Dwyer. 

Growing concerns about illiteracy 

In Port au Port, a single mother and small business operator said this budget, with its planned book tax, already impacts her ability to buy her daughter books. 

"We might not live in a big city or a town with many thousands of people, but does that mean that we have any less worth than the rest?" said Cheryl Bennett.

Bennett said the Port au Port library is housed in the school and used daily by children.

"If you don't have reading, what chance do they have in school?" she asked.

Loss in Labrador

Dwight Lethbridge, the mayor of Cartwright, told the Labrador Morning Show that people in his town can't drive to another library.

He doubts whether the town can take it over.

"This cut [affects] the lowest income and disadvantaged the most," he wrote in a Facebook post.  "Pretty soon, we are not going to have any services left." 

Lethbridge said he supports a lot of the cuts, but the government is going about it the wrong way.