Dear Mr. Dale Kirby, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development,
The London, Ontario, chapter of the Progressive Librarians’ Guild strongly condemns the decision to no longer provide funding for 54 public libraries within the province. PLG also stands in solidarity with all citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador opposing the proposed austerity budget.
In times of economic recession, public libraries are a symbol of hope and resilience for individuals whose access to services are being cut back. Furthermore, statistics show that library use rises when regional economies decline. PLG London feels that these cuts are counter-productive to solving the economic crisis, and will only place more stress on the public. During this unprecedented economic decline, the people and communities of Newfoundland and Labrador would be better served by the government investing in their success and development, not by a scaling back of their service provisions.
PLG London also opposes the unequal targeting of rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as a result of these cuts. Rural library users experience significant benefit from access to public libraries, particularly in terms of economic opportunity and literacy levels. We feel these cuts, along with the government’s proposed tax increase on books, represent a significant threat to literacy levels in the rural areas of the province. Additionally, many of these communities have expressed that they were unable to continue to support their libraries without provincial funds, leaving their residents without access to library services. Finally, the government’s insistence that 85% of residents remain within a 35 minute drive of a public library is questionable and discounts the number of residents who do not have access to personal transportation.
Finally, this decision also poses a threat to the librarian profession in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Without appropriate funding, many libraries will not be able to operate on a full-time basis, and, therefore, available full-time positions for new librarians will decline. Professionally trained librarians are equipped with skills and knowledge that allow them to best serve their communities and without this kind of staff expertise, the ability of a library to provide optimal services to its patrons is significantly decreased.
We ask that you immediately retract your decision, and would advise that you enter into a series of discussions with library staff, administrators, patrons, and other stakeholders, to determine how Newfoundland and Labrador’s public libraries can be better funded and equipped to serve their communities going forward.
Sincerely, Progressive Librarians’ Guild – London, Ontario, Chapter