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