'We just pestered and pestered': Small towns happy with library closure review

The province's library board may have been caught offguard by government's announcement it would be suspending closures until a review could be done, but people in small towns are happy with the latest development.
Public libraries could still close after the review is finished, but the library board hopes people in communities will at least have some input before that happens. (CBC)

The province's library board may have been caught off guard by government's announcement it would be suspending closures until a review could be done, but people in small towns are happy with the latest development.

"We were just gonna start organizing a rally, and we didn't intend to give up. We were gonna fight until the doors of the library closed," said Sarah Payne, a volunteer with the library in Cow Head.

Last week, Education Minister Dale Kirby announced the province would suspend the closure of 54 of Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries.

The best plan would have been to make an informed decision.- Krista Godfrey

Instead, government has commissioned a review of the public library system to better determine the needs.

Payne said that no doubt has something to do with the public outcry. In her community, protesters organized a call list, so every day three people would call Kirby, Premier Dwight Ball and two others involved in the public library system.

"We had a calling list. For the next two months we had three people calling every day, we sent emails to save our libraries, we had petitions in all our communities," she said.

54 libraries were to close because of budget cuts and a plan for a "regional library model." But NL's government has temporarily stopped the cuts. Sarah Payne, volunteer with the Cow Head library and Ramea Mayor Clyde Dominie spoke with Bernice Hillier. 12:01

"We just pestered and pestered."

Payne added the decisions government made about which libraries to close seemed to be ill-informed.

"The government has recently spent around $35,000 or $40,000 to upgrade our library and we right now have a beautiful building and we only just finished the renovations about a year ago," she said.

"To think that we were gonna lose it and to lose one of the basic rights of literacy was a terrible, terrible blow."

'Need to address the chronic underfunding'

Meanwhile, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association said the external assessment is good news, if a little late.

People in rural communities are happy to hear the government is suspending library closures, and instead conducting a review. (Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

"The best plan would have been to make an informed decision and have a transparent process, and obviously that's not what happened to begin with, but better to realize that a mistake was made," said Krista Godfrey.

"We've had a lot of feedback from communities, they've been very upset, kind of blindsided by this decision, so I think this will give them a chance to actually have their voice heard, which is excellent."

Godfrey said it's vital now to ensure the committee conducting the review looks at individual libraries to make informed decisions if they move ahead with closing any of the locations.

"Libraries are great equalizers, they are part of people's lives from birth to death," she said.

"One of the things I'm hoping will come out in this review is how underfunded this system is and will show that in order to provide the best system, we need to address the chronic underfunding that has happened."