Reverse decision to close libraries: Earle McCurdy

NDP Leader releases library tour report prior to final session

Cory Hurley
Published on November 8, 2016

Earle McCurdy

The Libraries Act should be amended to recognize the importance of libraries in communities, and to make it more difficult to just shut them down, according to Earle McCurdy.

Prior to the final public consultation on the ongoing library system review in St. John’s tonight, the New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader released a report compiled from his tour of 45 provincial libraries — 39 of the 54 previously targeted for closure — this summer.

“I can’t say it more strongly than I did in the report,” McCurdy stated in a press release issued this morning. “Funding for libraries is an investment in the future. Libraries are about opportunity, about life-long learning, about tackling our literacy shortcomings. What is needed is more investment, not less.”

McCurdy called the tour an “extraordinary experience” to meet those who share an attachment to their library. The report includes quotes from people in many rural communities. It represents the varied, but strong, connections people from rural areas have to their local libraries, he said.

They remain integral to communities, despite continual reductions to their hours, according to the report. Librarians and workers have to be flexible in scheduling those limited hours to meet the needs of their patrons, leading to many going above and beyond their official, compensated hours, he said.

Many of these libraries exist in schools, which don’t have the resources to take over their operation, according to McCurdy. This resource has also proved beneficial to students and teachers in those schools, he said.

The libraries also offer services to adults in the community — resources such as job searches, resumes, and online access that are otherwise unavailable, the report stated. It is also vital to tourists in some areas, he said.

It is also the library that offers unique programming and presentations to the community, according to the report, as well as special events during holidays.

“The closures appear to be based on a belief that everyone has a car and everyone has a computer,” McCurdy states in the report. “My travels this summer confirm that many have neither.

“The decision to close 54 libraries was a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision that will diminish the quality of life of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in small communities. This decision should be reversed.”