Since the Saskatchewan Provincial Budget was announced last week, it’s pretty amazing to see the groundswell of protest at some of the most egregious and harmful cuts, especially to the province’s historic, innovative and world renowned public library system. For example, one Facebook group that sprang up is quickly approaching 4000 members after less than a week in existence!
A rally that was organized on pretty short notice in Regina for Saturday afternoon attracted over 100 people. More events across the province are being planned as well.
Before the budget was released, many sectors were expecting cuts of around 5%. That is what happened for the large public library systems in Regina and Saskatoon. But rural libraries got cut by over FIFTY per cent! (And to make it even worse, these cuts were announced without any consultation *and* are retroactive to the start of the year after 1/4 of their budgets were spent on a totally different set of assumptions.)
I don’t want to be too strong in my condemnation of these cuts but some of the quotes from government officials indicate that, at the very least, there is a lack of understanding about the role that the public library plays in modern life in terms of being a community hub for long-term citizens and new Canadians, an economic driver, and providing a huge return on investment.
It’s also shocking to see the Sask Party, who have the largest part of their base in rural Saskatchewan, make a move that will drive a stake into the libraries which are the heart of many rural communities.
I’m not sure if it’s true but there’s an anecdote in libraries about an attempted cut to library funding in a small town. The all-male town council, who weren’t library users for the most part, proposed the cuts but then their wives showed up at the next council meeting and the cuts were just as quickly cancelled.
I think there may be a similar disconnect here between the people making the decisions to cut funding to libraries and the response they’re going to get from the users.
We’ll see what happens but if the women and children (and yes, even many men) who love the libraries of rural Saskatchewan keep making noise, look out!