One day after education minister Don Morgan said the interlibrary loan service would remain intact despite budget cuts, his staff are now working with library officials to avoid its wholesale elimination.
In co-ordinated media releases sent out Tuesday morning, Saskatchewan libraries announced they were closing the electronic border between branches, which allowed library cardholders to access titles from any public library collection in the province.
The news comes on the heels of the provincial budget, where it was announced that $3.5 million would be cut from regional libraries across Saskatchewan.
“With the reduction in funding for regional library systems, the provincial system will no longer be sustainable in its present state,” read a statement from Palliser Regional Library.
In 2016, 693,000 holds were filled between libraries across the province. As of April 4, anything requested from libraries in other regions will not be filled unless it is already in transit.
“With a single stroke of its red pen, the provincial government has closed the borders between libraries in this province,” Sean Quinlan, Chair of the Regina Public Library Board of Directors, said. “What was once a nationally-recognized system of sharing and efficiency is no longer sustainable.”
“By closing off resources available to smaller centres, the government has created a two-tiered system of library services in this province.”
Minister urges libraries to keep loan service
On Monday, Morgan assured the province during Question Period that the ‘One Province, One Library Card’ program would remain operational.
“We are maintaining the interlibrary loan service,” Morgan said at the time.
Following Tuesday’s announcement that the service would be shut down, the education minister urged officials to reconsider.
“We have one of the best interlibrary loan systems in the Dominion of Canada,” he said.
“This morning I directed officials to meet with the regional libraries to determine the best ways of restructuring to make sure that we can maintain and continue the interlibrary loan system.”
Morgan suggested that libraries could find efficiencies in how materials are transported between branches, like using Canada Post to deliver resources directly from library to patron rather than going through a multi-level courier delivery system.
A big impact outside big cities
Moose Jaw mother Tabitha Clayson frequents the Moose Jaw Public Library to find materials for her family.
After learning her two-year-old son Finn was deaf and had special needs, Clayson quickly sought all the information she could at the local library.
“When we found out [Finn] was deaf, we came to the library to access different books on signing and deafness. When we found out he was also going to need assistive devices to walk, and we wanted to normalize that for our family,” Clayson said.
Clayson discovered that most books and DVDs specific to subject matter on deafness and disability were found in big city collections at libraries in Regina and Saskatoon. Fortunately, Clayson could order the books she was interested in with the click of a button.
“We used the interlibrary lending system a lot to get access to those items.”
Now with the threat of that system ending, Clayson said she will likely have to rely solely on the smaller collection at the Moose Jaw Public Library, or else pay more money to order titles online.
The Regina Public Library will host two information sessions about the provincial budget cuts on April 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library.
A petition has also been circulated in libraries calling for the government to maintain funding levels for libraries consistent to 2016 levels.
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