Regional libraries are reeling after having their funding slashed by more than 58 per cent by the province.
“All of us were just completely shocked,” Eleanor Crumblehulme, director of Lakeland Library Region said. “We were definitely anticipating cuts, but at the absolute worst we were thinking it was going to be 10 per cent.”
She said library directors gathered in Regina on Wednesday to receive the budget news from the assistant deputy director of education.
“It’s just devastating,” she said. “We’re all back in our offices now plugging away … trying to figure out what we can do. Are there services we can salvage?”
Crumblehulme said the funding reduction translates to nearly $600,000 for Lakeland region alone. Their operational budget is completely funded by the province.
She said it will result in staff cuts and branches could end up closing.
She noted those shuttered branches would be in small communities that may have lost everything else already.
“The library is the one thing remaining to hold these communities together,” Crumblehulme said. “It’s going to be terrible.”
The problems extend across the province as well. The Chinook, Palliser, Southeast, Wapiti and Wheatland regional libraries have all posted notices on the front pages of their websites asking users to contact their MLAs about the cuts.
“At this time, we are uncertain what will become of our 32 rural public libraries and 14 corner libraries in southwestern Saskatchewan,” reads the statement by Chinook Regional Library.
SASKATCHEWAN LIBRARY GROUP IN JEOPARDY
The funding cuts to the libraries could also force regions to reconsider their payments into the province-wide library consortium, which allows all libraries to share their book catalogues.
Each regional library contributes funding to the consortium, but those fees are now being reviewed, according to Saskatoon Public Libraries director Carol Cooley.
“We need to assess the impact on our own libraries,” she said, noting Saskatoon lost three per cent of its own budget due to cuts.
“Then we’ll come together and discuss the consortium.”
Materials sharing is also being jeopardized by the elimination of STC, which used to ship books and other items among the library regions.