Please see message below sent on behalf of Mr. McCurdy regarding his tour of Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries.
(Note: This message is forwarded with permission)
A few weeks ago, I announced a summer tour throughout rural parts of the province to meet people to discuss issues of concern, with a focus on the ill-advised decision in the provincial budget to close 54 rural libraries.
After visiting 43 libraries, 11,000 kilometres, a busted tire rim, a float plane ride and hundreds of conversations later, I can report that rural libraries are alive and well, and need the support of government, not its disdain.
Last Thursday we held a press conference you can watch the NTV news clip or read The Telegram article.
We also enjoyed a fine visit to Pouch Cove Library and ended the day with a celebration.
I would like to send a special thank you to all the librarians and the volunteer board members of the libraries who participated and invited library patrons, community members, and others to meet and share with me what their library means to them.
We were unable to make it to all 54 of the libraries this summer but we will be making contact with those who either contacted us from libraries threatened with closure or those who want to share what their library does
for their town and visit more during the fall. Please feel free to send me an email at [log in to unmask] or call me at 709-739-6387.
Thanks again to all who made the tour and the finale possible: Eva Crocker for reading, Sarah Harris and William Corbett for playing wonderful traditional tunes, Gerry Rogers, MHA St. John's Centre, Paul Rowe for double duty as emcee and reading. Special thank you to Wayne Lucas and CUPE NL for sponsoring the tour and to special guest Charlie Angus, NDP MP from Timmins-James Bay for visiting and entertaining us with some great tunes including this one: Heartbreak Town.
As I travelled across the province in addition to meeting with library board members, staff and users, I met with seniors groups, Mayors and other community leaders, and visited Black Tickle for a first-hand look at the deplorable level of public services in that community.
I learned quickly that libraries are about much more than books. They’re about opportunity for young people. Quality of life for seniors. A place to meet. A focal point for small communities. A valuable resource for tourists. A local archive.
As a library user in Port au Port said, “A library is a library because of the people. It’s not just books.”
Another user called the Bishop’s Falls library called “the nerve centre of this little town”.
In a number of the communities I visited, the library was the only public building. In an even greater number of cases it was the only place where locals and tourists alike could get public Wifi access.
The loss of a library impoverishes a community.
Seniors in particular are upset about the loss of their local library. Not all of them drive; for those who do, the cost of driving just went up considerably with the doubling of the gas tax and the application of HST to insurance. Not all seniors are computer-literate; library staff help them communicate with an increasingly digital world. In several cases, librarians or library board members volunteer to deliver books to shut-ins on a regular basis.
Libraries are also important for pre-schoolers as well as school age kids. I heard from teachers who said children who attend reading circles in the local library are better prepared for school; that libraries are essential resources in coping with the challenges of multi-grading.
At virtually every library I visited, local people pointed out the extensive use tourists make of the library, including staying in touch with home via the Internet, and researching and getting information about the history and attractions of the community and region they are visiting.
I also encountered job-seekers who use the library for help in preparing a resume, in job search, and in applying for employment online.
So, following a summer of learning there is far more to rural libraries than can be grasped from an office in Confederation Building, I am more convinced than ever that these rural libraries are vital services with very modest costs attached.
Government should keep the doors open until the economy improves, and look at ways to invest in a resource whose economic and social value has been undervalued by both the previous and the current government.
Earle McCurdy, NDP Leader
Chief of Staff
New Democratic Party Caucus Office
(TEL) 709-729-2330 | (CELL) 709-691-9232
PO Box 8700, Confederation Building, St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6
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