The Liberal government plans to make drastic cuts to the cash-strapped library system in the province, and it’s already underway for Torbay’s public library, which will be forced to close by the end of March.

Torbay’s library board has been informed the Department of Education will not put forward funding to pay the library’s $19000 annual lease. As a result, NL Public Libraries “will be ceasing operation, and canceling the certificate for the Torbay Public Library.”

“The library operated out of the Torbay town hall for 40 years until March 2015, when the Town reclaimed the space in order to accommodate a growing staff,” says board member Melissa Barbeau. “With this decision, March 31 will be the last day of operation for the library.

The government’s choice to make a public library their first budget cut – rather than, say, top level salaries or the seemingly doomed Muskrat Falls project – certainly speaks to their priorities. And it’s not reading, learning, early childhood literacy, or Internet access for low income families or seniors.”

NDP Education Critic Lorraine Michael is also openly appalled. “This is a blow to the rapidly-growing town, but worse news for the entire province is that the Department of Education has apparently directed the Provincial Libraries Board to cut 30 percent of their budget – this would be a $3.3 million dollar cut on top of the drastic 2013 cuts by the previous government. How many other towns will be hearing similar bad news after this year’s provincial budget?”

“Torbay is a growing town. It should not be losing a library. Residents were told they would have to access St. John’s libraries. But many library patrons do not drive into St. John’s. Libraries provide many programs and services, for example, story time and after school programs, parent-child literacy sessions – if family literacy is important to government, it must recognize this. Libraries provide internet access and resources for student projects, for job-seekers, for people starting a business – this is increasingly important, particularly in rural areas, as more and more government services are only accessible on line.”

Barbeau adds that “The Torbay town council isn’t off the hook either. They took in $500,000 in increased revenue this year and have likewise refused to carry the cost. Library patrons and community members are urged to contact the Torbay Town Council, their local MHA or the Minister of Education to voice their concerns.”