Government doesn’t understand role of libraries, says CEO – Saskatoon

The provincial government doesn’t understand the vital role of libraries, particularly during tough economic times, says Saskatoon Public Library CEO Carol Cooley.

Last week, the provincial government cut all funding for libraries in Saskatoon and Regina. Regional libraries in smaller centres will see their budgets cut by more than 50 per cent.

“It shows a lack of support for, and lack of understanding of, the role of the public library in a community,” Cooley said.

‘The seriousness of the matter cannot be understated.’
– Southeast Regional Library statement

Attendance at library programs rose 30 per cent last year in Saskatoon, Cooley said. Use of its wireless Internet and desktop computers rose 10 per cent.

When times are tough, people rely on the libraries for these and many other public services, she said. Libraries allow low-income people to search online for jobs or find a place to live. Newcomers connect with distant family and friends on Facebook or take out books to hone their English language skills.

The Saskatoon Public Library system faces deep cuts to its provincial funding. (CBC)

“The role of libraries is more than simply books, whether they be digital or print, although books remain a core value and a core service,” Cooley said.

She disagrees with government ministers who said people can simply look up books and other information on their own electronically.

Small libraries, big impact

The Southeast Regional Library posted a statement on Facebook saying small libraries could be devastated. They’ll have to stop all new purchases, cut out all programming, such as kids’ book clubs, and many other services.

The statement called the cuts the greatest crisis in the history of the public library system.

“The seriousness of the matter cannot be understated,” said the statement.

“We encourage all local library board members and patrons to voice their support for the regional library system at this time by…

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