Newfoundland and Labrador closing more than half its public libraries
The head of Newfoundland and Labrador’s library association said she is concerned over how residents will access information and resources once dozens of libraries are shuttered across the province.
Newfoundland and Labrador has announced it will be closing more than half of its public libraries amid budget cuts unveiled in the latest provincial budget.
The province is set to close 54 of their 95 public libraries over the next two years.
The decision was made earlier this week, as the library board met to discuss how to deal with a $1-million loss in its annual funding, a cut that was announced in the provincial budget. As a result of the decision, 64 positions will be eliminated.
The board said 85 per cent of residents should be within a 30-minute drive of a remaining library branch, but Amanda Tiller-Hackett, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Libraries Association, said there are a lot of concerns over limited access.
“The assumption seems to be that everyone will continue to have access to transportation and to a vehicle,” Tiller-Hackett said in an interview on CTV's Canada AM on Friday. “That’s not necessarily the case, so there are a lot of concerns here.”
She also said it’s unclear what the closures mean for the remaining 15 per cent of people who won’t be within a 30-minute driving distance to a library.
“We have to remember that in a lot of these small and rural communities, a lot of these people rely on their libraries for their internet connectivity, so if they lose their library, they also lose their ability to do their research and access information online,” Tiller-Hackett said.
Those who take advantage of children’s, seniors and literacy programming will also now miss out, which is a huge blow, considering Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the lowest literacy rates in the country.
“I think we need to think about libraries more broadly and think about the resources that they offer, that can only be offered physically.”
The remaining 41 libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador that will remain open are to receive a service boost, including e-books and books-by-mail services.
Some residents said they are sad to see the closures.
“I use libraries a lot,” said one woman. “I think they are very beneficial to have, especially for people without the money to have access to resources.”
With files from NTV