Lack of shelf space

Jeff Elliott
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Public library in St. Lunaire-Griquet could permanently close, no “real options” says PILRB representative

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After the public library in St. Lunaire-Griquet locked its doors on Dec. 31, following the closure of Bayview Regional Collegiate last year, Provincial Information and Library Resources Board (PILRB) representatives have been skimming the area for potential spaces to relocate the facility.

Three suggested options were investigated, said Shawn Tetford, Executive Director of the PILRB, but neither inspection turned up worthwhile results.

“We looked at Truman Eddison Memorial in Gunner’s Cove, but we were advised by the representative of the English school board that the school is fully utilized for the staff and students, and thus there is no space for a public library at this time,” said Tetford.

Another plausible option was a local church basement, but substandard heights and inaccessibility insinuated there would be significant amounts of work, he said.

“We also looked at the former fitness center, and that space would be suitable for us but rent would cost $15,000 per year and since we were looking for cost-neutral options, we basically can’t afford it,” stated Tetford. “In addition to that, it would cost us $30,000 to re-establish the library simply because, in the existing space, the shelving units were attached to the wall and the circulation desk was built in place … so all that would have to be replaced.

“It’s just not within our current funding levels.”

Government provides funding for library services to the PILRB to allocate, as they deem appropriate.

And while they are willing to entertain all options that do not mean an added financial demand, everything identified to date would have required new funding.

It was previously reported that $5,000 would be saved each year as a result of the closure, but it isn’t the case if the PILRB decides it cannot justify allocating additional funds, from within its existing overall budget, to operate a library in the community.

“The only other option that was suggested to us was to relocate to a local business in the community,” said Tetford. “But there’s not enough space there to move the entire library -- we’d have to actually take a portion of the library and move it.”

He said they would give it until the end of the month, before touching base with the Mayor to see if there are further options available.

“With the amount of use the library has received over the last couple of years, it’s very difficult to justify putting additional resources into it,” he said.

“Right now we don’t have any real options, so unless something comes up in the next week or two it looks like we may permanently close the library.”

In the interim, Tetford suggests that locals avail of PILRB’s “Books by Mail” service, as well as an e-service, whereby clients, regardless of their location, can order books and have them delivered.

Straits-White Bay North MHA Chris Mitchelmore believes that communities like St. Lunaire-Griquet, which serve a regional population, should look at having a social space that could house not only a public library, but have office space to incubate potential businesses.

“If we had that, we are creating real value in our community,” he said.

“Housing the public library, where it was, posed a problem and I think that’s the struggle moving forward, in looking at communities and how we grow. We have to have a bigger plan; it’s not just about a library, it’s about the whole economic driver.”

Mitchelmore stated that his primary frustration stems from a recent speech from the throne concerning Adult Literacy and Essential Skills strategies, developed to help people find employment and effectively manage their career choices.

“This comes after cutting a public library from the system and also cutting other employment service programs that existed in the region, so it makes it really difficult as we move forward with these types of services lost,” said Mitchelmore.

“I think there needs to be that broader dialogue with the community and there needs to be a public consultation to see what, if anything, can be done.”

Mitchelmore envisions there being community centers scattered throughout the region that could serve as a regional hub where groups could be brought together to avail of programs, and where a public library could eventually be housed.

“We could save a lot of money by implementing these types of services and have a better educated society,” he said. “As we see more demands placed on our demographics, we need to look at these types of services.”

He said that the solution is not necessarily entirely government, that part of the solution lies within the community and within developing a plan.

“It’s a serious matter … public libraries are important, we have some of the lowest literacy rates, especially in our district, so I think we need to look at it as a big opportunity in advancing our economy,” said Mitchelmore.

“There are different social spaces and there are different businesses, but can we create this one space that brings it all together and also brings a region better together?” he questioned.

“We need to have a vision as to where we see our communities move forward as we’re aging, as demographics are changing, as services are needed and as we look at wanting to attract and recruit new people and new business opportunities.”

 

jeff.elliott@northernpen.ca

Organizations: Provincial Information and Library Resources Board, English school board

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