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Letter: Libraries and local leadership


Over the past year or so, local groups have organized several lotteries to support local causes, called Chase the Ace. These have appealed to a considerable number of people and showed the ability of organizers to raise funds for local causes.

This is not a surprise, as such leadership is seen on other occasions. What is perhaps a bit of surprise is the amount of money raised or, more particularly, the amount associated with these events. From my understanding of the events in McIvers and Bay de Verde, it is reported they raised combined a total of $3 million.

So, from these events we see there is an organizing capacity existing in our towns to fund local causes, and discretionary money available to spend on them. Of course, it should be remembered there are many other fundraising lotteries operating, drawing down on local funds.

Now, libraries are a provincial responsibility, funded by the provincial government but directly linked to local communities. There are 96 libraries. Their website states, in part:

 

Structure of Public Library Services

Public library services in Newfoundland and Labrador are provided by the Provincial Information & Library Resources Board (the “Provincial Board”), an independent board established by the Provincial Government through the Public Libraries Act (RSN 1990, Chapter P-40).

The first Provincial Board was formed in 1935. From the very beginning, this board has been responsible for public library services throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. This makes the organizational structure different from most other Canadian provinces where public libraries are a part of municipal or regional government services.

 

As can be seen, this structure has a long history as a provincial entity. This fact, in my view, has eliminated the need for local organization at the municipal or other local level to become actively involved, particularly in fundraising. Further, this province is alone in Canada with such a structure.

In the recent provincial budget, libraries had their financial support reduced and 54 libraries were to be closed or amalgamated. This caused much resistance locally and has been largely reversed, I understand. Now consultations with the public are underway on this subject.

Given that local organizing capacity exists and given that the money is there, and given that this is a largely local service with a demonstrated demand, as noted above, perhaps a move to more local control and funding should be considered. I would not expect the province to leave the area altogether. A co-ordinating and training capacity would need to continue to exist. Perhaps consideration should be given to taking the current libraries board and giving it a new mandate to co-ordinate local leadership in providing library services.

Bruce Peckford

St. John’s

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