Music Monday – “Libraries gave us power” #skpoli #SaveSKLibraries #SAVEDSKLibraries

So, almost unbelievably, after a month of incredible pushback from all levels – grassroots activists and elected MLAs, rural and urban citizens, library staff and supporters, and numerous others across the province and beyond – the Sask Party announced that they were restoring *all* funding to Saskatchewan public libraries that was cut in the March 22, 2017 provincial budget.


Pause for a moment to let that sink in.


The Sask Party didn’t just say they’d impose a “cap” on the funding cuts at 30%.  Or restore fully to the regions but partially to the cities.  Or restore partial funding to the regions and none to the cities.  Or put a condition on for a provincewide operational assessment. Or make the laid off library employees do a chorus line at the next Sask Party convention for tips and drinks.


Today, the Sask Party government listened to the voices of thousands of citizens and gave them pretty much exactly what they asked for (okay, restoring funding to STC would’ve been the cherry on top but that’s a related but separate fight for another day.)


Since the cuts were announced a month ago, the song “A Design for Life” by the Welsh band, Manic Street Preachers, kept going through my head.
The first line of the song is “Libraries gave us power” and the lyrics evoke the class conflicts between the wealthy and the working classes, the power of solidarity in the face of great opposition from the powerful, and the misconceptions about working class people in general.


For the past month, and especially today after I heard the news, as I walked around my branch, it struck me how few people even realised what sort of threats the library was under.


How the things most of them took for granted – everything from computers to a quiet place to sit to a telephone they can borrow to call for a ride to somewhere to print off their application papers for a loan to a place to work on school assignments – could be threatened with near extinction by the stroke of a pen by someone who likely never used a library, never went in a library and probably had no clue what a modern library is and what it represents.


And what does a modern library represent?


No, a modern library is not about “books” – not by a long shot.  What is a library?  A library is the honest-to-god living, evolving, embodiment of democracy in our society. And today, we proved it.  And tomorrow, I hope the politicians remember that – we, the people, not they, the powerful, are also what democracy is.


Nearly a month ago to the day, I posted a live performance of the song “A Design for Life” with the budget cuts fresh in my mind.  Having already attended a rally protesting the cuts, I had no idea what I’d be doing next.  But I knew I’d be doing whatever I could to help libraries survive.


Today, while doing a bit of research, I realised that the Manics were honoured at the opening of the new Cardiff Public Library.  They had their lyric “Libraries gave us power” inscribed on a plaque that was mounted in the new library, *and* had their song performed by the Cardiff Park Arms Male Choir as part of the library’s grand opening.


I don’t often re-post Music Monday songs – especially so close together.


But I think today is a perfect time to re-post the song that, a month ago, helped me get fired up and today, helps me to celebrate.


Libraries gave us power indeed.
All of us.
Don’t forget it!

If you want to jump to the choral performance of the song…

10 Things Elwin Hermanson Could Learn At A Library #skpoli #SaveSKLibraries

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…

  1. He Could Learn That Libraries *Aren’t* Underutilized
    Outside of traditional book circulation which is falling (in some libraries but not all!), libraries are seeing increases in pretty much every other metric – ebook use, Internet use, program attendance, in-person visits, library-to-library lending.
  2. He Could Learn That Libraries Are Part of the Social Contract 
    Libraries are actually no different than schools, healthcare, roads in that those are all things we have, collectively, agreed to fund through our tax dollars to make a better society.
  3. He Could Learn That People *Do* Donate To Keep Libraries Running
    Especially in rural communities, people give their time, money and numerous other things to help keep their library running.  But to expect those library supporters to be the only ones to contribute to something that benefits everyone is ludicrous.Here’s a direct quote from the Beechy, SK Public Library page that better explains that point:

    “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.”)

  4. He Could Learn That Just Because You Don’t Value A Public Service Yourself, Doesn’t Mean It’s Worthless
    Many people who don’t have kids still realise the value of schools and if you’re fortunate enough to never have to call the fire department, I bet you’re still glad it exists.  Libraries are the same – even if you don’t use them, you should at least be able to understand how they provide value to society economically, socially and culturally (especially if you’re a former MP and former leader of a provincial political party.)
  5. He Could Take Some Classes To Learn How To Better Use Technology Now, I don’t want to be ageist. But Mr. Hermanson is 64 years old and when he posted his thoughts to Facebook, he made them “Public”.  This meant that the 7000+ members of the “Save SK Libraries” group were able to go directly to his post and share their counter-opinions about the value of libraries.  Perhaps he intended to create a mini-shit storm on his page but I doubt it.  I regularly teach seniors at my library how to use social media and other technology-related skills.  I’m sure Mr. Hermanson’s local library would be willing to do the same for him.
  6. He Could Learn The Importance of Privacy in “Our Digital Age”
    Because Mr. Hermanson had much of his Facebook page set to Public posts, it was easy to see all sorts of private information – from him casually making “austerity” jokes with former Federal Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, to photos of his extended family (whom I hope choose to take advantage of library storytimes, Summer Reading Programs and other services – which, though their grandfather might not realise it, are all things that help give children the absolute best chance for future success!)
  7. He Could Look Up Government Records To See If The Grid Roads Near Beechy, Saskatchewan Are Underutilized
    If so, perhaps the wealthy farmers in that area should donate for those roads’ upkeep? 😉
  8. Someone Could Teach Him That You’ll Never Win An Argument On The Internet 
    After dozens of comments from members of the “Save SK Libraries” group in response to his FB post, he tried to reply to the “venom” instead of just switching the post to “Friends Only”.
  9. If He Read Some Fiction, He Might Learn That We Contain Multitudes
    There are lots of funny posts on his page that have nothing to do with politics which remind me that Mr. Hermanson is, in many ways, a typical rural Saskatchewan farmer, no different than many of the people I grew up around in Indian Head (well, his pension is a lot better than most old-timer farmers out there since he was a long-time elected politician.)  As with so many people weighing in about libraries these days, I don’t think Mr. Hermanson is necessarily a bad guy – just badly informed.
  10. He Could Learn (Remember?) What The Bible Says About How We Treat The Least Among Us
    Mr. Hermanson’s Facebook page also says he studied Christian Education/Theology at Eston College. I wonder if that college had a library where he could read what the Bible says about how to treat the less fortunate among us?  But given how he feels about public libraries, maybe he never bothered to visit the college library either?  Mr. Hermanson appears to have recently completed a (mission?) trip to Ghana with his wife.  If only that spirit of generosity and concern for others extended to those closest to home.

Saturday Snap – Good-Bye Fence, Hello Fence!

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.

Busy day!

#tbt – “Library Cuts Aren’t About Right vs. Left, They’re About Right vs. Wrong” #skpoli #saveSKLibraries @premierbradwall @saskmla

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.

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.

Go Flames Go!

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! 😉


Screwing With A Century-Old System: A Brief History of Libraries in Saskatchewan #skpoli #SaveSKLibraries

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.

#skpoli #SaveSKLibraries – Music Monday – “Educated in a small town/Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town/Used to daydream in that small town/Another boring romantic that’s me”

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

Secular Sunday – Coca Cola Died For Your Sins? (Happy Easter!)

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.

Saturday Snap – The Symbolism of a Rural Library’s Easter Display? #SaveSKLibraries #skpoli

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.

Friday Fun Link – Denzel Washington Remembers His Childhood Librarian #skpoli #saveSKLibraries #LibrariesMatter