Library funds restored

Cathy Palmer (left) and Eileen McCreary sit together during a "Drop Everything and Read" protest, in support of regional libraries, outside Arm River MLA Greg Brkich's office in Davidson on April 7.

Cathy Palmer (left) and Eileen McCreary sit together during a “Drop Everything and Read” protest, in support of regional libraries, outside Arm River MLA Greg Brkich’s office in Davidson on April 7.

By Joel van der Veen

DAVIDSON — The books are back in town.

In the face of public protests, criticism and a petition with thousands of signatures, the provincial government has announced that it will restore $4.8 million in funding for Saskatchewan’s libraries.

“Our libraries are very important to people all over the province,” Greg Brkich told the Leader on Wednesday. “We didn’t realize that the funding would affect them that much.”

The Arm River MLA said library funding was a hot topic for his constituents in the weeks following the budget’s release on March 22.

“That’s what we had the most calls on,” he said. “I didn’t think that would be the top priority for a lot of the callers, but it seemed like it was.”

Library staff and patrons were quick to denounce the cuts, saying the reduced funding would cripple many of the most popular services, leading to decreased usage.

The SILS program, which allows patrons to borrow books and materials from any public library in the province, was among the anticipated casulaties.

In an April 24 announcement, education minister Don Morgan conceded the government had erred in cutting the libraries’ budgets.

“Premier (Brad) Wall has always said that we would be the kind of government that would admit its mistakes and then fix those mistakes,” he was quoted.

Saskatchewan’s seven regional libraries had their funding cut in the budget by 58 per cent, from $6 million to $2.5 million.

That funding has since been restored, along with $1.3 million in funding for the municipal libraries in Regina and Saskatoon.

Brkich echoed Morgan’s comments, saying that the province perhaps should have consulted with the libraries before releasing the budget.

“It was probably a mistake to cut them that much without prior warning,” he said. “We probably should have worked with them a little earlier to see what could be done.”

Morgan said his office will begin a consultative review with libraries and municipalities, working on a long-term strategy.

For the full story, please see the May 1 edition of The Davidson Leader or call 306-567-2047 to subscribe today.

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