Today, the following message was sent to Mr. Dale Kirby in response to his June 30th news release regarding the suspension of public library closures in Newfoundland and Labrador. Although I cannot say that we had a direct impact in this decision, I do believe that our voice was heard.
Kind regards to all,
Subject: Suspension of Closures and Review of Libraries
Dear Mr. Kirby :
I have written to you more than once on behalf of APLA members to protest the projected closure of 54 libraries in your province. I am writing now to commend you for listening to your critics and for making the wise decision to postpone further action until “a complete organizational and service review of libraries is conducted.” The news release of June 30th noted that we should expect more details on the consultation process in the coming weeks. On behalf of APLA members, I would like to share a few ideas on the composition of the steering committee, the timeline of the review, and the consultation process itself.
That the steering committee will be composed strictly of members of Government and the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board, if we understand correctly, seems contradictory to the promise of a transparent process and an “external assessment”. We submit that the the steering committee should represent a variety of perspectives, and that it should include at least one or two professional librarians, and perhaps one or two members of public library boards who can provide a local perspective. Without this professional and local expertise, the conclusions of the steering committee may be perceived to be less well-informed than they might have been, and therefore less satisfactory.
Your news release made no mention of timeline. We urge you and the steering committee to take all the time that is needed to conduct a credible and thorough review. Haste to complete the exercise will inevitably compromise trust. Haste also runs the risk of producing less than satisfactory results with respect to longterm plans for the public library system.
Finally, with respect to the consultation process itself, we urge you to include as many stakeholders as possible, and to make full use of the expertise available to you. Your stakeholder consultations should include professional librarians who can provide you with much-needed information regarding current library standards, trends and best practices. The Newfoundland & Labrador Library Association (NLLA) has been very vocal with respect to the issues and would be an effective and ready resource to support the work of the steering committee.
We couldn’t agree more with your statement that “we need to improve library services to meet the changing needs of users.” Needs have indeed changed, with literacy, lifelong learning, and ongoing skills development being at the forefront; and technology has also changed, providing new opportunities for serving communities through their public libraries. For many individuals, particularly those in remote communities, public libraries provide their only access not only to books, but also to networked computers and hence to government services, employment opportunities, and vast stores of information needed to improve the quality of their daily lives. In the end, a greater financial investment in public libraries may be required to meet the social, educational and economic goals of your province.
We wish you well with your review and offer our services, should you require them, to ensure the best possible outcomes and the best possible public library system for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Suzanne van den Hoogen
APLA President 2016-17
Cc: Premier Dwight Ball
Mr. Calvin Taylor, Chair, PILRB
Mr. Andrew Hunt, Executive Director, PILRB
Mr. Earle McCurdy, Leader, NDP
Ms. Krista Godfrey, President, NLLA