Gull Lake and area residents rally around their local library
BY KATE WINQUIST
A concerned group of citizens met with books in hand at the Cypress Hills Constituency Office in Gull Lake over the noon hour on Friday to let MLA Doug Steele know how important our library system is in the province of Saskatchewan and that the proposed cuts are a mistake. The gathering was part of what is being touted as the largest protest in modern Saskatchewan history. Over 5800 people in 85 communities took part across the province.
Lisa Lich was one of the first to arrive at the read-in with her daughter, Halle.
“Libraries used to be my safe haven. I grew up in Medicine Hat, so I spent all of my summers in the library when I was part of a youth group there, so I would read to the younger kids and it was my escape away from home. It will be really sad if the kids don’t have a library to go to,” Lich commented.
As residents arrived with their books and lawnchairs, speculation on whether or not, MLA Doug Steele would address the crowd began to mount.
Steele did, in fact, come outside his office where he was approached by Gull Lake Librarian, Fran Martens. Martens wasted no time in expressing her displeasure with the government’s decision.
“We’re cutting books out of our library that are coming in from different regions. With shipping costs not being funded anymore, we are having to send back all of our books. What we are left with is sitting in our library. It’s going to bring down circulation. It’s going to bring down the patrons. Then the government is going to say, you don’t have the circulation. You don’t have the patrons, so you don’t need the library. We are really, really adamant about keeping it. Really! That’s why we are out to support the library, and we need a voice. We want a voice.”
Steele responded that a lot of tough decisions were made in the budget.
“The economy is what it is, priorities and all that stuff. Hopefully, the restructuring won’t do too much damage.”
Martens jumped back in.
“The way I fell, they should be starting at the top and working down, not picking on the little guy – the guy that needs the library. Maybe that’s all they have in their life … come to the library and get a book, use the internet. Everything is free. Everything is free for them! It’s the resources. Martens then asked the MLA, “Have you gone to University or anything?
“School and work. School and work, Steele replied.
“You had to use the libraries, did you not? You must see how important it is?” questioned Martens again.
Steele repeated that tough decisions were being made.
Nora Rudolph was the next to ask Mr. Steele some pointed questions.
“Do you know how the library system works? What can you tell me about the rural supervisors in their positions and what they do? The qualifications on what they do?
When it became apparent that Mr. Steele wasn’t prepared to answer those questions or didn’t know the answers, Rudolph’s daughter Karlah intervened.
“What she’s trying to get at is that the government right now is trying to argue that the libraries have been showing a surplus, and in fact, that surplus is accounting for capital infrastructure. Libraries do not have a surplus. They operate extremely cheaply for what they do and the $4.8 million that has been cut from these libraries will completely devastate them. It will make inter-library loans impossible and it barely touches the $600 million deficit. It’s a poor choice and I think the government needs to reconsider this. We’re not asking for a reduction in the damages. We’re asking for a complete reconsideration of this choice.”
Mr. Steele appreciated the concerns of those in attendance.
“I’m glad that you’ve all come out. It’s showing your concern about your library. We’ll take this response back and make sure your voice is heard. I’m one voice around the table in a discussion of 51 voices.”
“The cuts to the Chinook Regional Library and the whole library system in the province are fairly serious in nature, commented Gull Lake Mayor Blake Campbell. How is this going to continue with these cuts … is it going to fall back on the municipalities? We pay $21.42 per person in Gull Lake. That’s how municipalities contribute. That’s $20,000 for our community. How much more can we afford when we take a look at this year – we’ve had some grant in lieu funding that has been cut by $27,000 and revenue sharing is down $4,400. We have the Hotel (Clarendon fire clean-up) and a transfer station that’s going to have to be done by next year.”
What impact does the Chinook Regional Library situation have on the community?
“We’ve had some correspondence from Chinook and they have asked, “Could we pay more?” There is no way we can answer that right now without knowing what that amount is that they would like to see, said Campbell. I think we need to see these cuts restored.”