Libraries in Brigus, Fox Harbour, Harbour Grace, Victoria and Winterton will close within the next two years. The Winterton library, which is located in the same property as Perlwin Elementary, will close at some point in the 2016-17 fiscal year, while the other four libraries are slated to shut down the following year.
The regional libraries will be located in Bay Roberts, Carbonear, Old Perlican, Placentia and Whitbourne.
The closures are due to the provincial government’s decision to reduce PILRB’s operating budget by $1 million.
The Compass will have more on this story in its next print edition.
The future is very much in doubt for several libraries in the Trinity-Conception-Placentia area.
On Wednesday, it was announced 54 of the 95 public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador would close over the next two years. In a news release, the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board (PILRB) said it’s notifying employees impacted by the move and will release a list of libraries earmarked for closure once that work concludes. Government reduced PILRB’s budget by $1 million in the provincial budget.
There are presently 10 public libraries in the Trinity-Conception-Placentia area. Government’s plan is to have more than 85 per cent of residents able to access a library within 30-minutes by vehicle. Fox Harbour and Placentia both have libraries and are only a 20-minute drive from each other. The library in Whitbourne is just about a 40-minute drive from Placentia.
It’s quite likely multiple libraries will close among those in Brigus, Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace, Carbonear and Victoria. And the drive from Winterton to Old Perlican takes approximately 30 minutes.
Mike Hewson, chair of the Bay Roberts Library Board, believes a strong case can be made for keeping his local library open, noting it’s among the top-10 provincewide when it comes to circulation figures.
“If it were to be one of the ones that would be closed, that would be a major blow to the government’s literacy efforts,” Hewson told The Compass shortly after reading the news release, which was jointly issued by PILRB and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
The totality of planned closures disappoints Hewson, who notes people without vehicles will not be able to access libraries and the services they provide. He believes children will be hit the hardest, noting the Bay Roberts library has a substantial collection of books for children and youth.
“It’s there, in my view, where literacy starts and the idea of reading and learning and acquiring knowledge.”
Aside from offering free access to books, the Bay Roberts library also supplies public Internet access and special programming to improve literacy.
“I suspect it will drop circulation quite a bit and basically have an effect on the literacy level of the province, which I believe is already one of the lowest, if not the lowest in Canada,” Hewson said.
“I come from a science background and I know the cost of knowledge and the cost of research and the cost of acquiring knowledge. It can be expensive, but if you take a look at the cost of ignorance, you’ll find that’s a lot more expensive.”
As a town with a library nestled between two others not too far away, Harbour Grace’s public library could be in jeopardy. When contacted about the issue Thursday, Mayor Terry Barnes said he was flabbergasted by the province’s latest move.
“I think this government is letting the people down,” he said. “It’s alright to lay the blame on the previous government, but they didn’t create all the problems either. They always made sure there was schools available, they also made sure the health care was taken care of even though they went into a deficit, but they never cut things back that was a necessity to the people. What this government has got done to all the people in Newfoundland and Labrador — gee, you’re ashamed to say you live here.”
Barnes hopes the town doesn’t lose the library, noting it has already taken a big hit with the recently announced closure of the courthouse.