The move effectively gives new life to 54 libraries slated to close over the next two years, including five in the Trinity-Conception-Placentia area.
Back in April, the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board announced libraries in Fox Harbour, Brigus, Harbour Grace, Victoria and Winterton would close (with the latter continuing to operate as a school resource at Perlwin Elementary).
In a surprising turn of events, a news release issued Thursday said a steering committee would instead form to review the library system and its full impact on communities.
“We do have to make tough choices, but we are also open to listening to residents,” Education Minister Dale Kirby said in the release. “We have heard from very strong voices about the future of our libraries and we feel that before moving forward with any closures we should have an external assessment that contemplates the full impact a library has on its community. We still contend that we need to improve library services to meet the changing needs of users.”
Winterton Mayor Mark Sheppard said his council had discussed the library issue, and the option of having volunteers sustain it for the use of the general public was presented as an option in recent weeks. He was pleased to hear Thursday’s news.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s a wonderful idea if they decided not to (close). It’s an asset to the town and hopefully it stays forever.”
Brigus too was considering its options, though it was in a different position than Winterton. Where the latter town’s library is located in a school, Brigus’ occupies a building that belongs to the library resources board. If the town were to take an interest in keeping it open, the building would need to be purchased at fair market value.
Mayor Byron Rodway previously told The Compass his council was looking to get some questions answered about associated costs before making any decision on where to go with the library issue.
“It’s great news that it’s not closing — at least for the time being,” Rodway said when reached by The Compass Thursday.
Victoria’s 42-year-old public library is located in the municipally-owned town hall. As was the case in Winterton, there was some talk of having volunteers look after the library.
“I feel it was the right decision,” said Lillian Parsons, who serves on the local library board in Victoria.
Parsons acknowledges the use of libraries has changed dramatically over the years. With that in mind, she welcomes the idea of reviewing the library system as a mean to inform the next step government takes.