If you want to jump to the choral performance of the song…
If you want to jump to the choral performance of the song…
Former Reform MP and first leader of the Sask Party, Elwin Hermanson, came out of the woodwork (there’s a Hermanson/hermit pun in there somewhere) recently to weigh in on the backlash to the Sask Party’s cuts to public libraries…
It’s hard to know where to start with such a clueless and misinformed post. But I’ll try…
“The library has been blessed with the hard work, help and generosity of many volunteers. Along with grants from the R.M. of Victory, the Village of Beechy and the Wheatland Regional Library, our main source of income has been through rummage sales. The first income from a rummage sale was $100.00 from the Minnie Lake and Buffalo Basin Homemakers clubs in 1959. The library now holds semi-annual rummage sales, in October and April, which raise funds from $1800.00 to $2500.00 each.”)
Spent most of last night and today getting ready to build a new fence – loading the neighbour’s truck with the remains of the old fence (plus some extra junk we each had to get rid of), a couple trips to the dump, a trip to Home Depot, loading and unloading all the various supplies.
Good news for library supporters across Saskatchewan today as Premier Brad Wall has asked Education Minister Don Morgan to review the cuts to libraries that were announced in the budget a month ago!
Nothing is guaranteed from this review of course and libraries could end up with anything from a full restoration of funding, partial restoration, or nothing changing at all (though if the government were to present the ball then yank it away again, like Lucy with Charlie Brown, I suspect the Premier’s popularity might drop another twenty points!)
But the fact that a review is even happening has to be taken as a good sign and recognition that the outpouring of support for libraries across the province from young and old, urban and rural, online and off, has had an effect.
So I wanted to use my Throwback Thursday post to make one important point that has maybe been somewhat lost in this debate – that libraries are a net benefit to the economy, not a drain on it.
…and that’s only a small list of the ways that libraries benefit the economy.
Below is a photo I took when I worked for Southeast Regional Library in February 2008. I like the juxtaposition of the library vehicle and the pump jack. These aren’t two things that are opposed to each other, they have a mutually beneficial relationship.
And here is what I posted as a comment on Facebook:
This isn’t a question of right vs. left; it’s a question of right vs. wrong.
Whatever our personal politics, librarians pride themselves on serving *all* citizens equally and in a non-partisan fashion which is one of the library’s greatest strengths. In many ways, libraries really are the embodiment of democracy in our society.
Libraries have books for and against any political topic you can imagine and lend them equally to anyone interested in those topics without judgement. If you want to learn about why oil powers the Canadian economy, we have books on that. If you want to learn about climate change or the future of renewables, we have books on that.
As well, these cuts hurt people right across the political spectrum – the right-wing evangelical Christian mother in a small town who relies on the entire provincial library system to obtain materials to home school her children is equally affected as the left-wing agnostic teen who lives in that same small town and is looking for books about homosexuality because they feel like they’re the only gay person in a hundred miles.
I sincerely hope that Mr. Morgan sees the value that public libraries create – for our citizens, for our economy, and for our province.
One of the worst playoff series ever – Flames outplayed Ducks in three games and are down 3-0.
Go Flames Go!
Meme courtesy of Pace who is a major hockey fan! 😉
As usual, Tammy Robert has done some excellent journalism in writing about the history of libraries in the province, the parallels to arguments to earlier times when libraries were falsely attacked for being outdated or bad investments, and how the current government has long voiced support for libraries which makes their recent cuts especially nonsensical.
Her final point is the most relevant and one that I’ve wondered myself – even if a government misunderstood the value of modern public libraries and/or misread the public’s love of libraries (the “Save Sask Libraries” group on Facebook recently surpassed 7000 members!), why would they proceed with these cuts at great harm to, not just the province but also to themselves and their chances to maintain power in the future?
The good news is I suspect that we’re going to see some effort at damage control from the Saskatchewan government, restoring that $3.5 million library funding, at least in part, in the near future.
Not because it’s the right thing to do, mind you.
No, rather because in no world does it make any sense for a political party to continue to inflict this kind of damage on itself over $3.5 million.
There’s a hierarchy in rural Saskatchewan…
First, you lose the hospital.
The grain elevators close and are replaced by an inland terminal in a bigger town down the line.
You used to have a handful of churches and soon you’re down to two or one or maybe even none.
The local school closes and the kids get bussed to the next down over.
Over time, you start to lose the handful of small businesses that exist – maybe a Co-op gas station, a coffee shop that serves homemade Saskatoon pie, a branch of the regional Credit Union.
No matter what, there are three things remaining that still let you know you exist.
There’s a rink – probably a combination curling/hockey rink. (Unless it burns down, it’ll never close.)
There’s a hotel. (Well, a hotel that no one ever stays at but it has a bar that does a brisk business.)
And there’s a small public library, only open a few hours a week but that also opens your life in a small town or village to the entire world.
Now, it’s not a new debate to discuss whether Saskatchewan has too many tiny towns and villages and whether we should be moving towards a dozen or so “regional service centres” for different areas of the province.
There are lots of reasons, officially and unofficially, being discussed for why the government decided to cut rural libraries so severely (which probably deserves its own blog post someday.)
And who knows? In a province where the number of family farms has fallen significantly, where there’s already a constant stream of people leaving smaller centres for bigger ones, and where we don’t have the people *or* the money to support hundreds of smaller villages and towns, maybe this move, on some level, was meant to hasten the end of many of the province’s smallest towns and villages that are still “hanging on”?
I mean, that’s pure speculation on my part but, as I’ve said before, wouldn’t there be a huge irony if the Sask Party, with their stated desire to modernize the province but also with a strong base in rural Saskatchewan, ended up making moves like the cutting of libraries and STC that end up hastening that process?
Anyhow, time will tell what will happen.
But I do know that if small towns lose their libraries, as is looking likely, the only thing left to draw people to many small towns will be a hockey rink and a hotel bar. Maybe that’s all you need for some people but for most, it’s another nail in the coffin of rural Saskatchewan.
“Small Town” – John Cougar Mellencamp
As a slight break from non-stop “Save the Library” posts lately, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the incredible crassness of this grocery store Easter display (which I saw on Reddit and I think is from somewhere in the US.)
I’m not religious but even I went, “Wow? Really??” (Not the first time Easter iconography has collided with capitalism in my experience either.)
But that’s late-stage capitalism for you.
I recently came across this picture I took at one of my branch libraries soon after I started working as Branch Supervisor for Southeast Regional Library in 2007.
Like the communities where they’re located, many rural libraries are often relatively “conservative” in the dictionary (as opposed to the more loaded political) sense of the word – they’re authentic, cautious, practical, fiscally responsible — a traditional institution that’s inherent to social stability.
That’s why the cuts to libraries, so disproportionately affecting rural libraries, that are being imposed by a rural-based, conservative political party are such a head scratcher for me.
I mean, this photo alone has so much that defines rural Saskatchewan in my mind – the tablecloth (probably handsewn by a local volunteer), the flower print folding card table, the bunny ornament (lent by a local library board member?) and the daffodils, perhaps picked right from the branch librarian’s flower bed in the spring? (These are all things that simply don’t happen in city libraries. If flowers show up at my branch, they’re usually from the flower shop in our strip mall!) 😉
Another thing to note about this photo – these are pretty much all some older, worn books – the only kind that many less-well-resourced rural libraries had access to before the Sask Party funded the “One Card, One Library” model in 2007 and likely the same type of books that rural library patrons will only have access to once again as the province-wide system is dismantled – should those small libraries continue to exist at all.
So, to make an Easter analogy – here’s hoping that our rural libraries can be resurrected during this holy time celebrating renewal and rebirth.
Merging my old and new blog has left many internal links broken. You can figure out where any broken internal links should point by changing the URL (eg. /blog_archives/2012/01/01/123456.html to just the date - /2012/01/01). Entries might also be a day off from where you'd expect. As well, links to some content (eg. a few library school essays) are no longer working. Apologies for any inconvenience.