Honorable Mr. Kirby
Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Dear Minister Kirby,
By this time, we are sure that you are well aware of the amount of public and professional discord with your government’s decision to close more than half of the province’s public libraries.
While we sincerely believe that these messages are giving the government pause for thought, it is more crucial to us that the decisions will be reversed. Here is but a brief review of many of the points made against closing the libraries.
Newfoundland and Labrador is plagued by low literacy rates. By closing libraries and taxing books, the government is assuring the continued low literacy rates amongst the population of your province. There has been a great deal of research proving the positive effects that libraries have on literacy. But since the government is concerned about money— and it is entirely reasonable that that they would be— it might be more convincing to look at the plethora of research that shows the high financial costs of illiteracy.
Much of this research can, admittedly, be found easily on the internet. But this brings us to another point: many foresaw the internet as a replacement for libraries. They were wrong. With a surplus of information, and much incorrect, librarians are there to help people navigate, to find quality information efficiently. But even if one was to insist (erroneously) that the internet has diminished the need for librarians, for many folks the library is their source of internet. Your province is facing tough times, Mr. Kirby; everyone understands that and is sympathetic, but your government is punishing those who feel the tough times the most. There are many who cannot afford computers and internet in their homes, who cannot afford books that are more expensive, who cannot afford to drive half an hour away for library access.
Furthermore, libraries are not just about books and internet. A well run library is a community hub, a place where people meet, share ideas, hear different opinions and points of view. These gathering places strengthen communities, even financially, Mr. Kirby. By shutting these down, the government is depriving people of such opportunities.
Mr. Kirby, you recently stated that the previous government signed “rotten” library deals. You clearly understand what it feels like to inherit a bad legacy. We implore this government then to reconsider these library closures because it surely is a rotten legacy the current government will be leaving the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The rest of Canada is also watching, with grave concerns that this will start a trend across the country. The government’s small savings now, Mr. Kirby, will have much larger costs down the road. We are sure that is not the legacy that this government wishes to leave behind.
John Mutford, President
Northwest Territories Library Association
A suggested reading list:
The Conference Board of Canada (2014). Adults with inadequate literacy skills. Retrieved from http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/provincial/education/adlt-lowlit.aspx
Krolak, L. (2006). The role of libraries in the creation of literate environments. International Journal of Adult and Lifelong Education. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.156.7228&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Literacy Foundation (n.d.). Consequences of illiteracy. Retrieved from https://www.fondationalphabetisation.org/en/foundation/causes-of-illiteracy/consequences-of-illiteracy/
May, F., & Black, F. (2010). The life of the space: Evidence from Nova Scotia public libraries. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.18438/B8MS6J
Taylor, N. G., Jaegar, P. T., McDermott, A. J., Kodama, C. M., & Bertot, J. C. (2012). The role of public libraries in community building. Public Library Quarterly, 31(3). DOI: 10.1080/01616846.2012.707106