Monday, March 27, 2017

Saskatchewan, the Sask Party government, the City of Saskatoon, and Libraries

Here is the letter, with links, that I sent yesterday to Premier Brad Wall, Minister Don Morgan, and my MLA Eric Olauson. I have added a couple of things as a postscript at the end:

Dear Premier Wall, Minister Morgan, Mr. Olauson,
First, please let me quote Minister Morgan from the news the other night: "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 future of libraries across North America."
This is so insanely wrong-headed, so completely against the facts and research, that I can't help but wonder if this was a last minute decision to make it look like you all are tough on big spending. A last minute decision done without any actual research of your own.
Libraries these days are far more than places to borrow books. They are important to people without the resources to buy books, yes (incidentally, Minister Morgan, you borrow books from a library. You don't buy them), and interestingly, the people without the money to be able to purchase books are very often the people who also don't have the money to buy e-readers. These same people are also often the ones who don't have a computer at home and use library computers for school research, for replying to emails, for filling out job applications, and more. Libraries also host community functions, improve digital literacy, and are in general an important centerpiece for the community. Especially for people who are from a lower socio-economic situation than any of you or of me. Which also brings to mind people who are homeless, or near as such, who often use libraries for shelter of a sort. Some libraries, like Edmonton's main branch, even have social workers on hand to help clients such as that: Edmonton is a fine example of a city that invests in its libraries in order for them to maintain their relevance, rather than writing them off due to out of date early 20th century thinking.
I'm linking to a couple of things about public libraries, and while I fear that your lack of attention to detail regarding your initial decision means you're going to just gloss them over, I would encourage you to have a closer look. Libraries are an important locus for the community, be it a large city or a small town. It encourages literacy and is there as an important resource for all citizens. I ask you to reconsider this wrong-headed and destructive decision.

Neil Gaiman on libraries

Pew Research Center on libraries

Economic Impact of the Toronto Public Library on the City of Toronto

Postscript: The cut for libraries in the province's cities is 100%. No more funding. Now, I don't want to let city hall off the hook, which is why I have included them in the header at the top. The main branch downtown is a decrepit concrete monstrosity, left behind in an age when a lot of cities have been doing important and interesting things with their central libraries. But it's still there, still important to the community, and deserves better.

I'm also adding this link about the federal budget and libraries, supplied to me by my wife, an academic librarian.

People in Saskatchewan, please take the time to contact your MLA, the premier, and Minister Morgan. They've done a lot of ugly things with this budget, but for me this one stands out.

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