On March 22, the Government of Saskatchewan announced their provincial budget, which saw cuts being made across the board, including public libraries receiving less than half of what they were the year before.
“We knew that cuts were coming, everyone was expecting something in the five-10% range, but 100% elimination of funding to the two big cities and close to 60% reduction to the regional library systems was way beyond what anybody expected,” said Ron Gillies, the Head Librarian at the Lloydminster Public Library.
The Government of Saskatchewan has now announced they will be restoring funding for public libraries back to the 2016-2017 levels, meaning an extra $4.8 million dollars will go towards the libraries.
“There were many necessary, difficult decisions taken in this budget, however the reductions in library funding without giving libraries the tools to meet the new challenge was a mistake,” said Education Minister Don Morgan as he announced the restoration of funding.
Gillies adds that with the size of the cuts initially announced and and the time of which they had to deal with them, many were already moving into shut down mode and the restoration of the funding will stop that.
“The shutting down of the entire regional and provincial system can stop and we can try to put everything back together. Termination notices for staff can be rescinded. We’ll be able to, probably starting next week, handle requests for materials outside of our region again. We can put all the pieces back in place. So it’s a big feeling of relief and kudos to government for having accepted the input of the public and having changed this,” said Gillies.
The Government of Saskatchewan also said that they will start discussions with the public and with libraries to talk about the future of libraries and the best way to move forward in terms of communities and in terms of being financially responsible.
“It probably would have been better had they done the consultation first and then the budget. It would’ve saved everyone a fair amount of aggravation and heartburn. The last review of the legislation was 20 years ago, so it’s time to do that. That’s not a big or scary thing but the fact that they’re willing to sit down and talk to everyone and to try and find better ways to do the same thing, potentially to save money or get better results for the same money is a good thing,” said Gillies.
Gillies adds that he would like to thank everyone who spoke up about the funding.