Public Libraries First Victim of Provincial Budget Cuts

"The government’s choice to make a public library their first budget cut certainly speaks to their priorities. And it’s not reading, learning, early childhood literacy, or Internet access for low income families or seniors.”

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.”

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3 Comments

  • We’ve been attending the St. John’s Arts and Culture Book Club for the past 18 years on a monthly basis and enjoyed a pot of coffee during our meeting this is not high end coffee, not catered not a local brand just a pot of coffee. Last night we were informed due to budgetary constraints the library would no longer offer free coffee to our book club. This is how low we’ve become in this Province. The past governments have chiseled away at funding for the libraries by not giving grants, nor expanding space nor upkeep of the libraries, they’ve closed our downtown library and have not made it easy for handicapped people to visit. Without the exceptional staff who work there, there would be no incentive to visit. It is such a tragedy that the only thing left the libraries can cut out of their budget is coffee as they have nothing left to give.
    Premier Ball this is one 30% saving cut you and your government should be ashamed off.

  • It’s kind of upsetting that she would take a jab at the Torbay council like that. She failed to mention that Torbay provided that space for 40 years, rent free, when they had no obligation to do so. Public libraries are a provincial responsibility, as other towns receive tens of thousands per year in provincial funding for their libraries. Torbay may have increased it’s revenue in recent years, but it also has more residents to provide services to, as well as dealing with increased costs of materials and labour. I think the town should be commended for providing the space for a library for as long as it did, instead of being belittled when it no longer can.

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