Wanna know a secret?
Although I’ve signed each of the various petitions that are available, attended rallies and done a lot of other work, both visible and behind the scenes, I haven’t formally written to my MLA or Minister Don Morgan or Premier Brad Wall about the recent cuts to Saskatchewan’s public libraries yet.
As this blog, with over ten years of near daily posts will attest, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) isn’t usually a problem for me.
But I know that genuinely changing someone’s mind is one of the hardest things any of us can do.
So I keep trying to compose something in my head – the perfect letter – that will convince the powers-that-be that they have made an enormous mistake.
I want to tell them that their decision to cut $5 million from public library budgets will negatively affect kids and parents. Babies and retirees. Aboriginal Canadians and New Canadians. Business people and homeless people. People who don’t speak English and people with PhD’s in English. Urban people but especially rural people.
I want to tell them that the modern public library is so much more than books. So much more than e-resources. So much more than bricks and mortar.
I want to tell them that almost every statistic they’ve cited to justify their cuts is flawed. That combining public and school libraries isn’t a solution. That they’d know this if they’d only consulted with the members of the Saskatchewan Library Information Services Consortium before announcing these cuts.
I want to tell them about a typical day in the library where I work. How there are so many good stories on our shelves but that the great stories are contained in the people who walk through our doors and what the library does to help them.
I want to tell them about today.
Today was the smiling faces of two young kids standing next to the Easter Bunny decorations just inside our front doors – the stuffed bunnies nearly as tall as the kids – before the kids ran excitedly into our children’s area for their weekly supply of picture books.
Today was a young Aboriginal man who was a victim of residential schools, a recovering addict, and a former inmate who is slowly getting his life on the straight and narrow. Our library’s writer-in-residence saw promise in his writing and now he’s applying for a writing grant that may lead to his first book. We usually lend books but today, I lent him a laptop as he can’t afford to buy his own and his submission must be typed, not handwritten. He had tears in his eyes because of how much the library is doing to help him. “That’s why we’re here,” I told him.
Today it was two young women – one a volunteer in RPL’s ESL Tutor program, one a newcomer to Canada – working together to learn English.
Today, it was a man who has a wealth of skills in manual labour but doesn’t know how to use a computer very well, thanking a staff member for helping him complete the online forms for the job he’s just been offered with SaskPower.
Today, it was a group of high school students using one of our meeting rooms to finish a project that is due next week.
It was every one of the public computers in our branch in use, nearly without pause, all day with all the tasks and distractions that many of us with fast Internet connections and expensive home computers take for granted.
Today, it was a contractor using our combination printer/photocopier/scanner to send a quote to a customer in rural Saskatchewan.
Today, it was an elderly mother, concerned about her adult son who’s recently lost his job asking for help looking at job hunting sites on his behalf.
Today, it was two neighbours who happened to bump into each other, chatting about the weather by our “Spring Gardening” display.
It was a troubled teenager who’s been kicked out of every school he’s gone to who’s now taking high school classes online to complete his education, asking for an extension of his time on the computer.
It was a group of four friends who all arranged to come in together for a short demonstration of the library’s 3D Printer and an interesting chat about the future of manufacturing.
Today reminded me that I have a very important story to tell too. But my problem is that the library will tell us new stories every day…if we let it.
What story will tomorrow tell?