People are outraged about the public roundtable consultations that EY is facilitating as part of the review of the provincial public library system. The firm is performing the consultations on behalf of the Liberal Government at a cost of $187, 000 to provincial taxpayers.
About half of the citizens who attended the consultation at the A.C. Hunter Library in St. John’s walked out in the middle of the meeting.
Local author, Susie Taylor who attended the recent consultation in Bay Roberts, is one of many people who were frustrated to realize that EY had no intention of giving library patrons an opportunity to voice their concerns about the slated closure of libraries all over the province during these consultations.
“When the government is saying they’re going to close 54 libraries, that’s what we should be talking about. A lot of people came to those meetings with speeches prepared to give to the government,” Taylor said.
Taylor explained that instead of answering residents’ questions or listening to how they would be impacted by library closures, EY asked people to split into groups to discuss three questions, none of which addressed the looming closures.
Those questions were: Why is the library important to the community? What programs or services do you need from a public library? What do you think needs to change in public library services?
“There was no space to directly discuss library closures or for the public to ask questions of the government,” Taylor said about the consultations.
Taylor was also upset that the consultation about the Harbour Grace Public Library was held in the town of Bay Roberts.
Taylor walked an estimated three hours from Harbour Grace to Bay Roberts for the consultation. She did so to draw attention to the fact that, in an area without public transportation, the location of the roundtable made it unnecessarily difficult for patrons of the Harbour Grace library to attend.
“I walked to the consultations to point out that the consultations are being held far away from the places where libraries are actually slated to close. So their location immediately cuts them off from people whose lives are going to be affected by the library closures.”
She also wanted to highlight that if the Harbour Grace Library is shut down, the closest library for residents of her community would be in Carbonear, an hour and fifteen-minute walk or twenty-dollar cab ride away.
“If the government goes ahead and closes the libraries, it’s a long way away for people who may not drive or have transportation or even have the time to drive a half hour to the library,” Taylor said.
Taylor frequently uses the Harbour Grace library to borrow books and as a space to write, she is passionate about keeping it open.
“Closing this library would mean that the people in our community who have the least money and the least resources, and are the most disenfranchised, won’t have access to a library.”
Taylor says that in a province with the third lowest literacy rate in the country, closing public libraries is an attack on literacy.
“Literacy does lots of things for people, it empowers people, it lets people educate themselves, it helps them be gainfully employed, and I think it also teaches empathy,” Taylor said. “When we start talking about closing libraries and cutting people off from literacy, we’re talking about living in a much unkinder place than we already do.”