April 5, 2017 7:18 pm
Updated: April 6, 2017 7:38 am

Sask. libraries still reeling from budget cuts

Saskatchewan libraries have stopped inter-regional book transfers and announced layoffs to deal with budget cuts.

Taryn Snell / Global News

Libraries across the province are struggling to deal with their sudden loss off funding, but they’ve found answers in layoffs and cancelling book transfers between different regions.

“The structure underneath each individual library system is crumbling,” Jeff Barber, Regina Public Library’s director and CEO said. “It’s in a great deal of turmoil certainly at the moment.”

The provincial budget announced that $3.5 million would be cut from regional libraries across Saskatchewan.

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Library transfers between Saskatchewan’s ten different library systems were stopped on Tuesday.

“We used to have a very open sharing of materials, but the resource restraints have come in and we’ve had to stop doing that,” Barber said.

“It’s a big impact. In a year we sent out 110,000 items to other library systems, but we brought in 165,000 items,” he added.

The provincial library system services 500,000 registered borrowers and over 300 branch libraries. There were 693,000 holds filled between libraries across the province last year.

The provincial government wants to see inter-regional transfers restored.

“I’m hoping [within] hours and days,” Deputy Premier Don Morgan said. “We’re checking with them twice a day.”

Ministry of Education officials are meeting with regional libraries to find ways to save the system, he said.

“It’s a tough budget. There’s no doubt there’s going to be some choices that have to be made. We’re saying to people the inter-library system is a good system. Let’s find a way to preserve it or maintain it,” he added.

Parkland Regional Library has announced eight workers will lose their jobs. Another six people have already been laid off in Moose Jaw.

“I think if there was some consultation at least those discussions could have occurred: ‘OK, what can we do.’ That never did happen,” Alex Lenko, Canadian Union of Public Employees’ representative said. “It appears that everybody was blindsided.”

Barber said there is still room for conversation with the government, but talks should have happened before the budget was dropped.

“Doing things differently in a conversation over time is a different kind of conversation than doing things tomorrow because you just found out today that you lost all that money,” he said. “Is there room for conversation? For sure there is, but the suddenness of this is creating a challenge.”

Libraries are still hoping to see their funding restored, he added.

Morgan defended the government’s decision to surprise libraries with cuts to their budget.

“With budgets, you announce budget on budget day. That’s the way the budgeting system works,” he said. “They’ve got some cash available to them. They may have the option of going back to the municipality and asking for some support there.

Morgan added that the government is not prepared to adjust the budget at this point.

“But we certainly want to work with them to maintain the services that are being provided to the citizens of our province,” he said.

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.

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