Lifeline extended to Southeast Regional Library

James Richards, rural branch manager for Southeast Regional Library. Photo by D.Jahn-thue

On Saturday, April 8th the Regional Board of the Southeast Regional Library [SERL] met in Weyburn for its Annual General meeting and discussed the future of the region’s libraries.

As a result, the board voted for an increase in the municipal grant rate of 5.77 per capita, meaning rural municipalities will now pay $16.78 per capital. Larger centres of Weyburn and Estevan (that employ more staff and provide more services) will pay about three times the rural rate, with these increases buying the library a lifeline of another 9-12 months.

SERL Branch manager James Richards explained that SERL board members have the legal authority to address policy concerns and set this grant rate.

About 140 board members from across the region were invited to the meeting and Richards said attendance was good with 72 trustees plus another 23 visitors/observers present.

The increase in grant rates was considered a necessary response to provincial budget cuts, since the province had to that date shown no indication that it would reconsider its 58% cut to the provincial library system.

“It would be awesome if they did, but our municipalities in the meantime have voted to make up this top up. So that was kind of a back up plan in case we don’t get anything from the provincial government,” said Richards.

He also noted that the vote only involved SERL. Other regional libraries still face the same crisis.

Although he acknowledged municipalities are simultaneously dealing with other provincial cuts and may not be in a great position to shoulder more library costs at this time, Richards said the options were a rate increase or possibly loss of libraries.

“The only reason these things are happening is the provincial government without warning cut funding,” Richards stated.

“This is their responsibility, not us. We don’t want to do any of this…this is a terrible, dismantling of our region and our life’s work around our ears.”

Although the funding represents a lifeline, he added, “It does not “save” Southeast indefinitely…  This funding will not restore inter-provincial holds, as that is a province wide service coordinated through SILS (Saskatchewan Information & Library Services Consortium).”

While he noted the region has focused on further efficient use of its funding, Richards also expressed gratitude to Municipalities, who have “backed up all the talk about supporting libraries with real action and real dollars.”

On April 12th, the deputy minister was to meet with regional directors of Saskatchewan’s library boards, “to discuss the impact of changes to library funding,” stated Chris Hodges, media relations consultant for the Ministry.

Responding to an inquiry from the Star, he would only state:

“The group expressed a willingness to have future discussions and to work together moving forward.”

Kate-Lee Nolin, Director of SERL and branch manager of Weyburn and Estevan attended that meeting and also commented that although there were no announcements to be made, there would be another meeting with the province.