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Library cuts a ‘huge blow’ for Wapiti region, chair says
Wapiti Regional Library is shown here in downtown Prince Albert. (Google Maps)
Published Friday, March 24, 2017 6:47PM CST
Funding cuts to Saskatchewan libraries are creating words of worry across the province.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Saskatchewan Library Trustees’ Association have each issued statements condemning the cuts since the provincial budget was released, and the chair of one of the province’s regional libraries says the region is “very disappointed” in the move.
Saskatchewan’s 2017-18 budget, tabled Wednesday, eliminates provincial funding for Saskatoon and Regina public libraries and cuts funding to seven regional libraries by more than half.
“It’s a huge blow, and it was done without consultation and without any sort of transition plan,” said Cheryl Bauer-Hyde, chair of the Wapiti Regional Library.
The cuts reduce funds to Saskatoon and Regina libraries — which each have budgets of about $20 million — by about $1.3 million.
The regional libraries — Chinook, Lakeland, Palliser, Parkland, Southeast, Wapiti and Wheatland — will receive $2.5 million in funding, which is $3.5 million less than last year’s number.
“It’s a 60 per cent reduction,” Bauer-Hyde said, referring specifically to Wapiti. The region is losing about $400,000.
“Everything is on the table.”
Wapiti Regional Library, based in Prince Albert, includes more than 40 branches across north-central Saskatchewan. It received $1.07 million from the province last year, with the remainder of its $2.34-million budget coming from municipalities.
The municipality money goes mostly toward branch infrastructure and local staffing. The provincial funding goes to the regional office, which handles the processing and distributing of materials, payroll services, IT services and staff training, among other duties, according to Bauer-Hyde.
“We have a very small staff at a local level. They’re focused on providing services to people who come through the door,” she said. “If there’s a reduction in resources provided through the regional office, it means fewer services can be provided to the branches.”
CUPE, which represents 722 library workers across Saskatchewan, says the cuts will put more pressure on municipalities and calls the drop in funding concerning.
“The Saskatchewan government’s cuts to libraries will have a devastating impact on the many people who use library services and the many hard working and dedicated public servants who work in libraries,” a statement from the union read Thursday.
Ministry of Education officials met with the province’s library boards on budget day.
“The government understands the disappointment shared by those in the province’s library sector as a result of the reduction in government funding, and hopes local libraries will continue to work with their municipalities and school divisions to find creative ways of moving forward,” a statement from the Ministry of Education read Friday.
The decision was difficult, the ministry said.
The SLTA is urging the provincial government to find ways to keep funding up.
“The Saskatchewan Library Trustees’ Association is both shocked and troubled by the drastic cuts to library funding,” a statement from the association read.
“It was a huge disappointment that libraries were not forewarned or consulted with given the severity of the budget cuts.”