Protesters decry steep library budget cuts across Saskatchewan

Many concerned about looming budget cuts to libraries came out to protest in downtown Regina on March 25, 2017. Global News

Concerned Regina residents fighting against drastic cuts to library funding in the new provincial budget held a protest Saturday afternoon in the downtown area.

“I saw the people that come in, and it means the world to them … Why should you cut off the chance to learn?” Gail Bowen, who attended the protest, said.

“They’re giving tax cuts to corporations at the same time they’re cutting services to the most vulnerable people,” protester Dan Holbrow said.

The province has axed the $1.3 million operating grant to the municipal library systems in Regina and Saskatoon. The seven regional library systems are facing a loss of almost 60 per cent of their funding, about $3.5 million.

Libraries across the province use the money to help fund programs like ESL classes, early childhood literacy programs and other resources.

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“We tried to tell the minister just what the services are, how broad they are [and] what kind of good they’re doing for the community, but it’s obviously falling on deaf ears,” said Saskatchewan Library Trustee Association board member Elmer Brenner.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Don Morgan told reporters that the decision stems from the fact that many people aren’t going to the library anymore, as they turn to the internet for information instead.

“With the internet, people are using E-readers — they’re not going to the library to buy a book; they’re getting it online. A lot of libraries that they belong to give them some free e-books as well, so I think that is the the future of libraries across North America,” Morgan said.

READ MORE: Provincial budget sees cuts to Regina libraries, U of R funding

As of right now, the full impact of the budget cuts are unknown, but Brenner said he felt the outlook was grim for bibliophiles in rural areas.

“At this point, nobody really knows what that is going to do to the libraries themselves… [For] some of the smaller libraries, it might be as drastic as closing them down,” Brenner said.

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