The recent provincial budget has caused quite a bit of concern for the province’s population. With cuts to the public sector and the controversial Deficit Reduction Levy, the ire of many citizen’s has been sparked. Recently there has been an announcement that NL will become the only province that has a “book tax”, but beyond this the latest details discussed in the media relate to access to books and libraries.
Earlier today, Dale Kirby, the province’s Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, stated that changes to the public library system is needed to remedy what is seen as an ineffective service. VOCM posted an article that explains the government’s rationale for closing more than half of all the province’s public libraries over the next two years:
Education Minister Dale Kirby says high adult illiteracy rates in this province are a reason to make changes to the library system, not maintain the status quo.
Some 57 per cent of people in this province have below a level three literacy level, meaning they’d struggle with most jobs due to a lower literacy. Minister Kirby says that’s exactly the point of the move to close libraries. He says if the system we have isn’t working, something has to happen to fix it. He says today’s announcement is a step towards a regionalized service model for libraries.
As an educator, author and book lover, I support initiatives that improve literacy and education for all people in Newfoundland and Labrador, but I do not understand how closing 54 libraries will improve the province’s literacy rate. Libraries provide books, magazines, internet access and other benefits that encourage and help enable reading for young and old alike; their absence can’t possibly encourage the opposite. It’s hard to see how these cuts are anything other than counter-productive in improving quality of life for the citizens of the province.
If, indeed, there is a plan in place to improve literacy, then should the government not present that plan alongside the cuts to libraries? This would give some context for the decision and allow people to understand what other measures are being put in place to improve the situation, otherwise people are left in the dark and questioning the government’s actions. I’m in support of responsible government spending and effective use of tax dollars, but such decisions must be accompanied by a reasoned, considered plan to improve upon the status quo that is available to the public eye.