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.
- There are numerous studies that show that for every dollar invested in libraries, they return anywhere from $4 to $8 in economic benefits.
- That libraries help integrate newcomers to Canada into the economy quickly and successfully.
- That libraries help ensure an educated, employable workforce with their work developing early childhood literacy.
- That libraries provide access to computers and the Internet so that people can type resumes, search for work and even apply online as well as direct training and support. (I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve helped at my library who have valuable skillsets – as labourers, tradespeople, service industry workers – but only lack some of the technology literacy needed to highlight these skills in the modern age.)
…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.